Legislative column

During the recent veto session the House and Senate voted to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 656, making Missouri the 11th state to allow citizens to carry a firearm for self-defense or what is being called, constitutional carry. Missouri citizens have had the right to bear arms since our state’s first constitution in 1820.

The law changes a variety of procedures and provisions to existing law. Because of the changes and the varied timing of when certain parts of the law go into effect my office has been answering calls, emails and letters from constituents with questions about Senate Bill 656. Each time a constituent reaches out to my office I take their input into consideration. I received 487 calls, emails and letters asking that I vote in support of the veto override and only 27 asking that I vote to sustain the veto.

It is important to remember Senate Bill 656 improves the ability of law-abiding gun owners to exercise their Second Amendment rights, it does not eliminate or restrict the current Concealed Carry process for obtaining a permit, which has been in place since 2003. Under this bill, Missouri will continue to maintain its Concealed Carry (CCW) permit system, which allows permit holders to carry into other Right to Carry states.

Concealed Carry permit holders will continue to be able to carry, with permission, into the following places that are restricted: schools; colleges and universities; child care facilities; casinos; churches; posted private property; government-owned buildings; restaurants/bars; and law enforcement offices/police stations.

These locations will continue to prohibit all concealed weapons, including those carried by CCW permit holders: amusement parks; sports arenas with over 5,000 seating capacity; hospitals; courthouses; government meetings; within 25 feet of polling places; prisons/jails; airports; federal buildings; and on public transportation. Permit holders can still openly carry even in communities that have prohibited open carry. This is due to a bill passed by the legislature in 2014 that supersedes local ordinances that prohibit open carry. Nothing in Senate Bill 656 changes this.

Key components of SB 656 that go into effect immediately include:

· Military Permit Renewal, which provides for a permit renewal grace period for service men and women who are serving overseas.

Key components of SB 656 that go into effect Oct. 14 include:

· $100 Max Fee for Five-Year CCW Permit, which provides that no sheriff may charge more than $100 for a five-year CCW permit, including the background check fee. Also, CCW permit applicants will be able to pay by credit card. Service charges may apply.

· Background Check, which allows rural third-class county sheriffs to process background checks for professional registration requirement such as teachers, schools bus drivers, doctors, etc.

· CCW Permit Fee Use, which increases the amount of the CCW fees sheriffs are allowed to use to help pay for equipment expenses, as intended by original law.

· Babysitter Castle Doctrine, which allows persons who have been authorized by the property owner to be on or in their property to use deadly force as necessary.

· Online CCW Training, which allows for a portion of CCW training to be held online. While this will ensure that basic firearm components are covered and tested, it does not impact the classroom or actual shooting competency portion of the training.

· Lifetime Permits, which allows Missouri citizens to obtain a 10-year, 25-year or 50-year permit that is valid only in Missouri. Fees are $200, $250 and $500, respectively. All renewal background checks, as with a five year permit, are included in the process.

· Stand Your Ground, which provides an additional legal defense option by removing the requirement that a person retreat before using force in situations where such person is reasonably in fear of their safety or the safety of another.

The following components will go into effect Jan. 1, 2017, so as not to conflict with the re-write of the Missouri Criminal Code:

· Constitutional Carry, which allows for the legal carrying of a concealed handgun without the requirement of a government permit.

· Prosecutor and Judge Carry, which allows municipal and county prosecuting and assistant prosecuting attorneys, as well as municipal, associate or circuit judges to carry a firearm for self-defense with a CCW permit. – Fire Department Staff Carry, which allows members of a fire department or fire protection district to carry a firearm on the job, with permission from their governing body.

Existing permit holders and potential permit holders should maintain or obtain their permits to help protect themselves from any potential legal issues or entering restricted locations accidentally. It is important to remember there is nothing in this law that makes it legal for a convicted felon to obtain or carry a firearm.

Mike Cunningham is a Republican member of the Missouri State Senate, representing District 33. Contact him at 573-751-1882 or www.senate.mo.gov/cunningham

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