Citizens of Missouri have had the right to bear arms ever since the state’s first constitution was created in 1820.
On Jan. 1, the Show Me State will add another notch in its gun belt when Senate Bill 656 fully becomes law and Missouri becomes the 11th state to allow citizens to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense without a government-issued permit.
The procedure is widely known as “constitutional carry.” While the new law will allow carrying a concealed weapon (CCW) without a permit by people age 21 and over, there will still be restrictions regarding where guns are appropriate or allowed and where they’re not.
Texas County Sheriff James Sigman likes the move, but expects it will mean fewer people will go through the CCW training process that’s necessary to obtain a permit.
“I like that any law abiding citizen who can lawfully carry a gun can do so without a permit,” Sigman said. “However, the downside of this would be the training that was offered to individuals who were not familiar with firearms. Fortunately, in our particular area most people grew up with a gun in hand and know how to safely handle a firearm.
“The other downside is not everyone knows what constitutes justifiable use of force, and they won’t get educated about that in the training process.”
Missouri citizens are advised that when they’re in another state they’re subject to that state’s conceal-carry laws.
“Due to the changes in the concealed carry law, I believe the number of concealed carry permits issued will continue to decline,” Sigman said. “Constitutional carry permits the citizens who can legally carry a firearm to carry within the state without a permit, but Missouri constitutional carry does not permit carrying a concealed weapon beyond our state borders without a concealed carry permit that is recognized by another state. I believe every citizen who plans to carry should read Senate bill 656 and become familiar with it, in order to protect themselves.
“And every individual who chooses to carry should be familiar with their sidearm and shoot frequently.”
Some elements of SB656 took effect at the end of October, but its main component kicks in at the outset of 2017. Sigman said the new law could benefit people in his profession.
“Under the changes of the conceal carry law, I believe we will see more citizens carrying concealed weapons and hopefully this will create a crime deterrent,” he said. “The law has created a ‘stand your ground’ element and removed the duty to retreat from private property owned or leased by an individual, or is occupied by an individual who has been given specific authority by the property owner to occupy it.”
The constitutional carry idea is apparently popular in the Ozarks. After Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed SB656 earlier this year, the legislature voted to override his veto. Prior to the vote, District 33 Sen. Mike Cunningham, a Republican, said he received a total of 487 phone calls, emails and letters asking him to vote in support of overriding Nixon’s veto, and only 27 asking him to sustain it.
“Each time a constituent reaches out to my office, I take their input into consideration,” Cunningham said.
Rep. Robert Ross, a Republican, was instrumental in helping SB656 pass.
“SB656 is a win for the law abiding citizen, making it easier for them to protect themselves without governmental burden or permission,” Ross said. “Is something really a ‘right’ if you’re required to ask your government for permission to enjoy it?”
Ross believes SB656 detractors exaggerate its potential side effects.
“Despite the anti-gun opposition message of ‘the wild west, blood in the streets, rampant crime’ and more, the provisions contained within SB656 aren’t beneficial to criminals who don’t follow our current laws,” he said. “It should also be noted that these are the same hyperbole-filled arguments made when Missouri first enacted our current CCW system, and again when Missouri became an ‘open carry’ state.”
CCW permits will continue to be obtainable through county sources in Missouri, and are available in Texas County through the sheriff’s department. As in the past, Missouri CCW permits will be honored in several other “right to carry” states that don’t have constitutional carry laws.
Cunningham said having a CCW permit will still to be a good idea for other reasons.
“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,” he said.
Ross believes CCW education will not suffer much.
“Gun owners are a disproportionately responsible group and while there will no longer be a training and education governmental mandate, I would encourage and believe that the classes offered will be well attended,” he said.
Carrying a concealed firearm has been on the increase for several years. Texas County Memorial Hospital safety committee member John Sawyer said the hike in concealed guns has even resulted in action at the facility.
“We’ve had an increase in patients admitted who had a gun on them,” Sawyer said. “We’ve had to change some of our policies just this year to where now instead of having one of our supervisors or security people go in for disarming a gun, we actually call the police to come and do it for us.”
Particular types of knives and certain other weapons also fall under concealed weapon regulations, but Missouri’s new law is mainly focused on guns. Four other states have limited forms of constitutional carry in place, and more than 20 have introduced or are planning to introduce constitutional carry laws in their legislatures.
The new law does not make it legal for a convicted felon to obtain or carry a firearm in Missouri.
“I believe that more law abiding individuals will choose to carry concealed as a matter of convenience,” Ross said, “but that the enactment of this law will come and go, without significant event. Crime always has and always will continue, although we’re likely to see reductions when criminals are faced with the increased likelihood that their next potential victim is armed and willing to protect themselves or their family.”
CCW permit holders will continue to be able to carry, with permission, into the following restricted locations: Schools, colleges and universities, child care facilities, casinos, churches, properly posted private property, restaurants and bars, government-owned buildings and law enforcement offices.
These locations will continue to prohibit all concealed weapons, including those carried by CCW permit holders: Gated areas of amusement parks, sports arenas with more than a 5,000-seat capacity, hospitals, courthouses, government meetings, within 25 feet of polling places, jails and prisons, airports, federal buildings and on public transportation.
CCW permit holders can still openly carry even in communities that have prohibited open carry, due to a bill passed by the state legislature in 2014 that supersedes local ordinances.
For more information in detail, log onto www.missouricarry.com.
In Missouri, CCW permits are issued by counties. For more information about the permitting process, call the Texas County Sheriff’s Department at 417-967-4165.
Constitutional carry states (Jan. 1, 2017):
Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming. Limited versions: Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma.