JEFFERSON CITY — Changes to a law that would have made it easier to give weapons to minors were removed from a proposed bill Tuesday by a Senate committee.
The original proposal, passed by House members last week, would have allowed any adult to give or sell a firearm to a minor without a parent’s consent.
The substitute bill, which will be voted on by the full Senate on Wednesday, would preserve the existing requirement for obtaining parental consent.
The only part of the House bill left unchanged by senators was a section regarding giving weapons to minors in order to impede an investigation. If passed, this section would make it a Class E felony to give a minor a weapon “for the purpose of avoiding, interfering with, or preventing a lawful felony arrest, detention or investigation of any alleged offense.”
The original House bill was meant to prevent non-parental family members and role models from being prosecuted for taking children hunting or to a gun range, said the bill’s House sponsor Rep. Nick Schroer in his testimony.
Schroer, R-O’Fallon, said he believes the current laws could allow a prosecutor with an agenda to go after grandparents or aunts and uncles for practicing their Second Amendment rights.
Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis, pushed back against Schroer’s testimony, saying the current law only requires parental consent and prohibits recklessness in giving weapons to minors. It does not prevent a child from taking classes at a gun range or hunting with parental consent.
Sen. Bill White, R-Joplin, strongly supported maintaining the parental consent requirement.
“There’s nothing in our statute now that says I cannot give your child a gun,” White said during his questioning of Schroer.
Senators also heard feedback from various constituencies. Sharon Jones, from the Missouri NAACP, testified in opposition to the House bill. She cited the impact of gun violence on Missouri’s cities. Jones said the NAACP was supportive of the changes made by the committee.
The presidents of the Saint Louis Police Officers Association and Missouri Police Chiefs Association both supported the bill.
Ultimately, the Senate committee’s substitute passed 5-1. May was the only no vote on the bill. If passed by the full Senate, it would have to be passed by the House in order to reach the governor’s desk.
The judiciary committee also voted on House Bill 2, which would allow for witness statements to be admissible in criminal trials in the event that a subpoenaed witness has died or been intimidated. HB 2 passed unanimously with six votes.
Also Tuesday, senators reviewed several other criminal justice House bills and recommended that they be passed as written during two committee hearings.
A fiscal oversight meeting will be held Wednesday morning to discuss three of the legislative pieces. Committee members said the financial impact of House Bills 11, 16 and 66 will need further review before being considered by the full Senate.
House Bill 11 would increase the penalty for encouraging or aiding a child under the age of 17 to engage in substance or weapon-related offenses. House Bill 66 would establish a Pretrial Witness Protection Services Fund for law enforcement agencies to provide security for witnesses, potential witnesses and their families.