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Guns dominate the statehouse agenda

March 01, 2001
By: Maggie Rotermund
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 123

JEFFERSON CITY - Handguns consumed the attention in Missouri's statehouse for much of Wednesday as the state Senate debated without conclusion a bill force St. Louis city to drop its lawsuit against handgun manufacturers.

Before the Senate was a bill introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau. It would prohibit state or local government from suing firearms or ammunition manufacturers.

"Tobacco was unpopular. Guns are unpopular. Who's next?" asked Kinder of Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, one of only a handful of Senate opponents to Kinder's bill.

Jacob replied alcohol. Again Kinder asked, "Who's next? The fast food industry for making people obese?"

On the opening day of the debate, Kinder's main opposition came from Sen. John Schneider, D-St. Louis County. Schneider offered five amendments during the morning session. All were shot down by margins of about four-to-one.

"This is a dangerous bill. It has been written by very, very adept people. It is the slickest language," Schneider said.

Jacob joined Schneider's opposition, offering 3 amendments, all of which were defeated. Jacob argued the issue was letting citizens have their rightful day in court.

St. Louis is one of several cities that have filed lawsuits against the handgun manufacturing industry charging that their products have contributed to the homicide and assault rates of urban America.

The Senate adjourned for the day without taking a final vote on the proposal. Votes on several amendments showed that the bill has overwhelming support in the Senate, if opponents will allow the issue to come to a final up-or-down vote.

Senate debate began on the same day the National Rifle Association held a rally at the statehouse to support legislation to allow Missourians to carry concealed weapons. Hundreds gathered in the Capital rotunda Wednesday morning to find support from legislators.

"I own a gun and at times I carry a gun--and I'm a Democrat," said House Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa. "Missouri Democrats are fiercely independent. We still believe in the traditions and freedoms that built this country," he said.

While Missourians narrowly defeated the concealed weapons bill just a couple of years ago, the issue has been reintroduced by the House Majority Leader, Rep. Wayne Crump, D-Jefferson County.

This time, Crump's bill would not subject the concealed-weapons idea to a statewide vote to take effect.