(St.Joseph,MO) Missouri lawmakers have pre-filed over 600 bills for the next legislative session, including a dozen different bills relating to gun control.
Scott Randolph is the volunteer state legislative lead in Jefferson City for the national group Moms Demand Action, a grassroots political group that advocates for public safety measure to protect against gun violence.
“We need to take steps in the state to help protect and help reduce gun violence in our communities and help to promote gun safety. I think it is a good opportunity for this legislative session to address some bills that will do just that,”Randolph said.
The proposed legislation addresses things like firearm sales, safety and transfer, but Firearms Instructor Shawn Harper doesn’t feel additional legislation is necessary.
"No gun control law will fix the problems that we have. If people are going to own a gun, they should have the attitude, knowledge and skills to safely own and use that gun,"Harper said.
Senate Bill 163 and House Bill 210 would criminalize private firearm transfers. If approved by the general assembly, the bill(s) would make it illegal for a person to sell or transfer a firearm unless the person is a firearms dealer; selling or transferring to a firearms dealer, or performing the transaction through a licensed firearms dealer
Randolph said requiring all sales and gun transfers to be in a federally certified firearms dealer would universally require people wanting to purchase a gun to go through a background check.
"It's been proven in other states and other areas to be an effective way to reduce gun violence and to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,"Randolph said.
A bill proposed by Democratic Senator Jill Schupp would make gun owners liable if a child was injured after gaining access to their firearm.
Senate Bill 40 would impose criminal liability on gun owners who do not follow requirement for storing firearms if a child gains access.If a child gains access to a readily dischargeable firearm and a person failed to secure the firearm or left the firearm in a place they knew or should have known the child could gain access.
"Gun owners have a moral and ethical responsibility to prevent unauthorized access to their firearms, that definitely first and foremost includes children,"Harper said.
Two of the most controversial bills filed so far have been House Bill 40 and Senate Bill 23, both would allow for individuals to file for a firearm restraining order.The bill would allow people who feel an individual poses an extreme risk to themselves or others are permitted to petition the courts. The individual will appear in court within two weeks of the petition being submitted. If approved by a judge, the person will be suspended from owning a firearm for the duration of the order of protection, the order can be renewed up to one year by the petitioners.
"If people that show signs that they could be a danger to themselves or a danger to other people, then you can go before a judge and at least be able to temporarily remove firearms from that person,"Randolph said.“This would be a huge step in keeping our community safer for people who are at high risk for suicide, or have dangerous mental illnesses; people who may be prone to, like we’ve seen unfortunately, to be looking at mass shootings.”
Harper said the firearm restraining order overrides people’s personal rights and worries the law could lead to wrongful allegations.
"Anyone that is a danger to themselves or others should not possess firearms, although let's also not forget due process, because firearms are also covered under property rights,”Harper said. “You can't just take someone's guns because someone accuses them of something."
Senate Bill 42 would also allow for a petition for extreme risk order of protection.
“Women in America are five times more likely to be killed in a domestic violence situation if a firearm is present,”Randolph said. “I think these bills are very important in protecting people who have been victims of domestic violence.”
House Bill 162 would ban certain firearm accessories that change how a semi-automatic firearm operates; expanding on the Trump administration’s bump stock ban and expanding it for Missouri to include trigger cranks and other devices that enable semi-automatic rifles to fire faster.
“These are types of weapons that don’t have any place in our society or in our communities. They belong more in war zones and that is what they were designed to do, be weapons of war,”Randolph said.
House Bill 235 would set requirements for how gun owners report lost or stolen firearms.This bill requires a firearm owner to report to local law enforcement the loss or theft of a firearm within 72 hours of discovering the loss or theft.
House Bill 56 would require that firearms being transported or stored in a motor vehicle be unloaded and stored in a locked case, trunk, or other secure container. The bill allows loaded handguns to be transported within the cabin of a motor vehicle as long as they are not left unattended.
Despite influence from both major parties, the final decision on firearm legislation will be left up to lawmakers.All pieces of proposed legislation will be assigned to committee when the 2019 legislative session begins on Wednesday, January 9.
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