JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri became the latest state to allow residents to carry a concealed weapon without a permit when lawmakers supported the change Wednesday.
Starting Jan. 1, gun owners will be able to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. The remaining provisions in the bill, including the expansion of "stand your ground," will take effect in 30 days.
Tense debate during the legislature's annual veto override session encompassed themes of race and class as lawmakers clashed over whether to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of Senate Bill 656. In the days leading up to the session the debate drew national attention, with organizations on both sides of the issues working to influence lawmakers.
Another controversial part of the bill is its "stand your ground" provision, which will allow residents to use deadly force on public property if they perceive a threat.
Moms Demand Action, a branch of the New York-based organization Everytown for Gun Safety, rallied to gain the attention of lawmakers prior to the veto session, but their efforts were not enough.
Representatives from the National Rifle Association also were present at the Missouri State Capitol. The organization had worked in the weeks leading up to the session to support the legislation.
Debate of the bill in the Senate lasted for about two hours and for another hour in the House. The Senate voted 24-6 to override the veto; the House voted 112-41 in favor of overriding the bill.
Lawmakers who supported the bill argued that its provisions are within every person's Second Amendment rights. They also argued criminals will carry guns with or without the law.
Current Missouri statutes require a person to take concealed carry safety training in the classroom and at a firing range to obtain a permit. Those who have been convicted of a violent crime within the past five years are ineligible for permits under current law. Current law also charges county sheriffs with conducting inquiries with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System on anyone who applies for a permit.
Opponents of the bill argue that it would put Missourians in danger.
"This bill will introduce the idea that you can justifiably take someone's life out of fear," said Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, who defines himself as a supporter of the Second Amendment.
Holsman emphasized his long history of gun ownership while speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday. He showed Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, sponsor of the bill, his concealed carry permit and informed the audience that he received his first gun at age 12.
"I don't think it’s a burden to take an eight-hour course to understand the do's and don'ts, the shoulds and shouldn’ts, of carrying a loaded firearm," Holsman said.
Kevin Ahlbrand, president of the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, agreed.
"We’re going to have to assume everyone we approach is armed," Ahlbrand told the Missourian prior to the veto session.
Concern for law enforcement was a theme during the veto session, with opponents of the bill saying that it would make law enforcement officers less safe.
"It's shameful for Missouri lawmakers to turn their backs on the people who have to go out on the street and enforce laws," Moms Demand Action Missouri chapter leader Becky Morgan said after the votes. "They've now made being a police officer more dangerous."
The organization also issued a statement, saying that legislators passed the first stand your ground law since the death of Trayvon Martin.
With events like Ferguson a part of Missouri's recent history, lawmakers including Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, Sen. Kiki Curls, D-Kansas City, and Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, addressed their concerns that this bill would make minorities less safe.
"The institution of this law really provides no protection or security for law enforcement," Curls said. "And the same issue that they have had with Michael Brown and other murders by police — whether justified or unjustified — around the country, it leads to more of them. They are gonna be fearful that anyone could be carrying a concealed weapon."
Columbia area Republican Reps. Chuck Basye, Caleb Jones and Caleb Rowden voted in favor the bill. Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, also supported it.
Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, supported the final version of the bill in the regular session, but voted Wednesday in opposition. Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, also opposed the bill.
Ines Kagubare contributed to this report.
Supervising editor is Mark Horvit