Missouri House gives preliminary approval to bill repealing some "gun-free zones"

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Some very good news for gun owners out of Jefferson City, Missouri, where the state House on Thursday voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill that will repeal several of the state’s “sensitive places” off-limits to concealed carry holders, including public transportation. The legislation still requires a second and final vote in the House before crossing over to the Senate, which could come as early as next week, but today’s vote is a great sign for the bill’s future.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schnelting, a St. Charles Republican, would allow people with concealed carry permits to carry guns on public transit in the state.
“We all have the potential of running into situations where we have to utilize self defense to protect ourselves and those we love,” Schnelting said on the floor Thursday. “This legislation will discourage criminal activity on our public transportation systems, but most importantly, it will ensure that we maintain our constitutional right to self defense.”
The bill was amended on the House floor to also allow for concealed carry in houses of worship without the express consent of church leaders, but the change still allows for firearms to be banned from religious centers if the property owners choose to take that route; a provision that some opponents don’t seem to understand.
Jennifer Harris Dault, a St. Louis Mennonite pastor, told The Star Thursday she was disappointed that Republicans were trying to allow guns in churches while ignoring calls to enact gun regulations. Mennonites are historically peaceful and her congregation would not believe in bringing guns for personal protection.
“The idea that someone could legally bring a gun into our worship space, I don’t even want to think about it,” she said. “That’s so foreign to who we are. It would be basically an attack on our religious liberty.”
I would agree with Dault, except that’s not what the does. Under the legislation’s current language all Dault would need to do is post a sign at the door alerting parishioners that guns are not allowed in the sanctuary, though if it’s so foreign a concept to her flock that may not be necessary. If Dault is concerned about someone with ill-intent showing up at the church, on the other hand, those individuals aren’t going to be stopped by either the current law or any sign alerting them to the fact that her church is a “gun-free zone.”
Other opponents include the major public transit systems in the state, though the head of the state’s transit association is arguing that the bill wouldn’t apply to the state’s largest systems.
Kimberly Cella, the executive director of the Missouri Public Transit Association, told The Star that allowing guns on public transit would seriously jeopardize federal funding.
Cella said transit providers like OATS Transit and SMTS, Inc., which are both non-profit transit providers for most rural areas of the state, would likely face issues with gathering funding.
Those providers, Cella said, have private contracts and receive federal funding, and there are requirements in those contracts that prohibit guns on transit. The bill would jeopardize those contracts and the matched federal funding, Cella said.
Both St. Louis and Kansas City’s transit systems are bi-state operations governed by a federal compact that prohibits guns on public transit, and Cella said it is her understanding that that compact would supersede the bill and not apply to transit in those cities.
It might be time to challenge that federal compact in court, especially if its preventing law abiding citizens from exercising their right to armed self-defense in public. The policy certainly isn’t stopping individuals with criminal intent from bringing guns on to buses and trains, as we reported earlier this week. St. Louis’s Metrolink system had more than 600 incidents last year, including the murder of a passenger on a train. As St. Louis TV station KSDK reported at the time:


This is not the first incident of violence involving MetroLink. On Jan. 31, 2021, MetroLink security guard, 30-year-old James Cook, was shot and killed at the Delmar Loop MetroLink station on Hodiamont Avenue. Nathaniel Maurice Smith, 36, was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in February 2021.

Earlier this month on April 8, a man was shot during a carjacking also at the Hodiamont MetroLink station.

Violent criminals are still carrying with little fear of the consequences, while peaceable gun owners who would like to carry for self-protection but don’t want to run afoul of the law are the ones disarmed. The Missouri bill that received preliminary approval today would be a major improvement to the status quo and at least provide concealed carry holders with the ability to protect themselves in a supposedly “sensitive place” that is already far from being “gun-free”.



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