JEFFERSON CITY — The fine line of what constitutes common sense gun law was once again the center of disagreement for Missouri lawmakers Tuesday.
The General Laws Committee voted to send several bills related to firearms to the full House. The committee heard public testimony on the bills last week.
The Second Amendment Preservation Act would nullify any federal law that infringes on people’s right to keep and bear arms in accordance with the Second Amendment. House Bill 1637 also would prohibit local law enforcement from enforcing federal laws related to firearms.
Before the committee voted, Democratic lawmakers voiced their concerns with the legislation by proposing amendments that would create some exceptions.
A person convicted of domestic violence can lawfully possess a firearm in Missouri if the charge results in a class A misdemeanor. Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, suggested that the bill should include protections for victims of domestic violence.
“We just got a report yesterday from the Highway Patrol that there were 53 people murdered last year by domestic violence and five suicides connected to them,” McCreery said. “So I feel like this amendment is just common sense.It’s a way ... to protect victims from somebody that shouldn’t have a gun.”
Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa, said he believed the amendment did not fit the title of the bill, which adds protections to the Second Amendment.
“I don’t think that misde meanor crime should be the reason why an individual loses their Second Amendment rights,” Taylor said. Although he did not support McCreery’s amendment, he said he would be willing to work with her in the future on the matter.
Another amendment, proposed by Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, would require licensed dealers to conduct the background check mandated under federal law. He said he was worried that removing federal regulations would allow firearms dealers to operate around the background system.
Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-Kansas City, said the amendment would help local law enforcement.
“If we don’t put it into state law, but we do pass the underlying bill that prohibits law enforcement from enforcing federal law, then what we’re essentially saying is that any state or local law enforcement would not be able to do anything about folks that they know are violating the background check law,” he said.
Both amendments failed. The committee voted 9-4 to pass the bill.
The committee also voted to pass Blair’s Law, named after an 11-year-old girl who was killed by a stray bullet fired from hundreds of yards away. The law would make firing a gun in celebration a felony and has been praised by both political parties as a “common sense” gun law.
Merideth proposed an amendment that would make the first offense a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
“For those of you that just said that domestic violence offenders with a misdemeanor shouldn’t be prevented from owning a gun,” he said, “I find it interesting that some kid that shot off a gun on New Year’s Eve would be now prohibited from ever owning a gun for the rest of their lives because the first offense is a felony.”
The amendment failed, but the proposed Blair’s Law passed on a 12-1 vote. Merideth was the only representative in opposition.
Another bill related to gun control also won approval. House Bill 1722 allows Missouri residents to carry concealed firearms on public transportation.
The committee heard public testimony on additional bills related to firearms. House Bill 1295 would require public elementary schools to teach gun safety to students and public secondary schools to offer similar elective courses.
“I think it’s critical that we provide our children with the necessary information that they need to be safe,” said Rep. Chris Dinkins, R-Annapolis, the bill’s sponsor. “And we now have school protection officers in our schools, and sometimes these are teachers or administrators. And so if kids come up on a gun, they need to know that they do not need to be touching it, they need to get an adult.”
The bill would recommend using Eddie Eagle, an NRA-funded program that educates children on proper steps to take if they find a gun. Dinkins said she would be open to considering other programs.
Kristin Bowen, an activist with Moms Demand Action for gun sense, testified against the bill, saying in-school education programs are ineffective. She said rather than addressing gun violence at school, lawmakers should focus on teaching safe firearm storage at home.