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Concealed Weapons in Vehicles Get House Support

March 13, 2002
By: Brian Connolly
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 1344

JEFFERSON CITY - Supporters of gun rights picked up a victory Wednesday as Missourians moved closer to getting the green light to carry concealed firearms in their vehicles.

The Missouri House gave preliminary approval to a bill that would allow individuals age 21 and over to keep a concealed firearm in the passenger compartment of their vehicle. Current law allows weapons to be kept in vehicles as long as they are visible.

Supporters of the legislation said it provides Missouri residents the same rights currently given to individuals travelling through the state. They also cited increased security concerns since Sept. 11.

Legislators opposing the bill offered several amendments aimed at weakening the bill by imposing additional requirements and restrictions on gun owners.

Rep. Tom Villa, D-St. Louis, said "responsible gun owners" shouldn't leave loaded guns in an unattended vehicle. He proposed changing the legislation to require guns be unloaded or made inoperable whenever they're left in an unattended vehicle.

"Everyone seems to think that it is an inherent God-given right to bear arms and all we're asking is that if you bear arms you bear them safely," Villa said.

Villa said he was concerned that burglars would gain access to loaded weapons left in vehicles they target. Rep. Mark Wright, R-Springfield, rejected that argument saying that with that rationale the next logical step would be to require similar measures be taken in homes.

"You have more break-ins and stolen guns from homes than you do cars in my estimation," Wright said.

An amendment offered by Rep. May Scheve, D-St. Louis County, would have made gun owners guilty of a class D felony if injury or death resulted from a minor gaining access to a loaded firearm in a vehicle. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Wayne Crump, D-Potosi, said Scheve's intentions were clear.

"You crafted it to hurt the bill just as much as possible lady, because you're not in favor of the bill," Crump said.

In a separate vote on the same bill the House also approved the creation of Project Exile, which requires state law enforcement officials to review whether individuals prosecuted for weapons offenses can be prosecuted under federal law as well. Crump said that rather than subjecting offenders to stricter federal laws, local prosecutors sometimes handle weapons violations themselves in order to gain press attention.

Rep. Vicki Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, said she opposed the concealed weapons portion of the bill and was among the minority supporting Scheve's amendment. She said it was clear the bill was going to pass but that she "would have been comforted" if the amendments were added.