JEFFERSON CITY - A new push to allow Missourians to carry concealed weapons was significantly weakened Tuesday when the Senate added an amendment taking out the state's major population centers.
The bill originally would have allowed licensed citizens to carry concealed weapons throughout the state.
As it stands now, the bill would require a referendum in all counties except St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Jackson County, and Greene County, which contains Springfield. Those counties would not be able to vote on the question and concealed weapons would not be allowed into those counties.
The amendment that added the partial statewide vote was offered by Sen. Doyle Childers, R-Reeds Spring, who said he thought the bill still has a chance to pass. He said he offered the amendment because in a 1999 statewide referendum, voters in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas were the main opposition. His amendment would allow the rest of the state to go ahead without affecting those areas.
Childers maintained he was trying to find a way to get around Gov. Bob Holden's threat of a veto and get the bill to pass.
Immediately after Childers' amendment was adopted, the bill was put on hold. Senate Majority Floor Leader Bill Kenney, R-Lee's Summit, who decides the order in which the Senate debates bills, said he was disappointed that his constituents in Jackson County would be excluded under the bill's new language. He said he had not yet decided whether the bill would come up again.
Current state law permits carrying weapons as long as they are in plain sight. This bill only addresses the issue of concealing a firearm.
The bill would require that a person is 21 years old, not have been convicted of committing a violent crime for five years, and undergoing firearm training courses before getting the permit.
"God created man. Sam Colt made them equal," said Sen. Harold Caskey, D-Butler, and sponsor of the bill.
In Tuesday's debate, the Senate defeated attempts to put the issue to a statewide vote again.
Sen. John Schneider, D-St. Louis County, said the law already allows Missourians to carry weapons in plain sight, and could not understand the need for concealing one.
"You want to carry a gun, carry a gun," he said. "But don't be a sneak."
But Sen. John Cauthorn, R-Mexico, said he couldn't understand opposition to the idea.
"I didn't know we need to vote on our Constitutional guarantees," he said.
Even if the bill comes back up for more debate, it may not ever come to a final vote.
Several senators are planning to offer more amendments when the bill returns to floor debate, and some of the opposition may kill the bill entirely.
Sen. Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis, said she and several of her colleagues are willing to filibuster the bill to ensure no vote is taken.