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House approves concealed weapons in vehicles

May 01, 2001
By: Matt Williams
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 835

JEFFERSON CITY -

The Missouri House approved a plan Tuesday that would allow drivers to keep a loaded weapon in their glove compartment, prompting opponents to complain of a push to chip away at the state's gun restrictions.

Current law allows gun owners to transport firearms in plain view, such as on a seat or on the dashboard. It is now illegal to store a firearm in the glove compartment or under a seat.

This proposal, part of the omnibus crime bill, would end that restriction. Other provisions of the measure would allow prisoners to have their DNA compared with crime scene evidence, restrict production of methamphetamine, as well as a host of other changes.

"If I've got somebody in a truck in Ashland and they've got a 5-year-old kid with them in the passenger seat, I would much rather have them put that weapon in the glove box," said Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, who voted for the measure.

Opponents said they were concerned that this proposal would be the first in a series of efforts to overturn the state prohibition on concealed weapons.

"It's simply the first step in concealing weapons," said Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, who voted against the bill.

Wilson said her position was in line with the voters who spoke on the issue of concealed weapons when they rejected Proposition B in 1999.

"I feel my vote was in keeping with the wishes of the community," Wilson said. Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia, also voted against the measure.

The plan now heads to a Senate that has made gun issues a priority.

"We just do raise a concern about officers safety when you put at loaded weapon in there," said Capt. Chris Ricks of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, expressing concerns the initiative may pose a danger to officers who make traffic stops.

Rep. Phillip Britt, D-Kennett, sponsor of the bill, said he would work to remove the concealed weapons provision in the Senate instead of stalling the overall crime bill with a comprehensive debate on concealed weapons.

"I felt like with two-and-a-half weeks left in the session, we don't have time for that fight," Britt said of the gun debate. "I spent too much time on this bill to lose it because of that."

Majority Floor Leader Wayne Crump, D-Potosi, questioned whether the Senate would remove the language. He sponsored the amendment and is also pushing for a wider concealed weapons bill.

"I would really be surprised if the Republican Senate who took over control of the senate on gun issues would take gun legislation out of a crime bill," Crump said.

Meanwhile, the state Senate advanced efforts to change the legal blood alcohol content from .10 to .08, with sponsors predicting easy passage when legislators reconvene Wednesday.

"I'm basically pleased," said Sen. Morris Westfall, R-Halfway, who is handling the bill. "It's a positive fiscal note and will take in more money then the bill is costing."

The tougher drunken driving standards would increase costs by more than $100,000, so the proposal must receive approval from the Budget Committee before lawmakers can grant final approval.

-Jennifer Ginsberg of Missouri Digital News contributed to this report.