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Government, Politics & Issues

Missouri House seeks to expand gun rights, approves tax credits to attract gun manufacturers

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: With time ticking on a number of key issues, including the state budget, the Missouri House returned on Tuesday to one of its favorite topics this session: guns.

The chamber acted to approve several bills or amendments dealing with firearms, including measures that:

  • Allow the arming of some school personnel, including teachers and administrators;
  • Reduce the minimum age to 19 from 21 to carry concealed weapons;
  • Eliminate the three-year renewal for concealed/carry permits;
  • Transfer the handling of such permits from the state Department of Revenue to local sheriffs;
  • Bar the enforcement of federal gun restrictions;
  • Offer tax credits to encourage gun manufacturers in other states to move to Missouri.

Many of the provisions are contained in HB 859, including the elimination of state involvement in issuing the concealed/carry permits.
Some legislators and gun-rights advocates have been furious for weeks with the Department of Revenue – and, by association, Gov. Jay Nixon – after learning that it had been scanning and preserving copies of the concealed/carry permits, along with such documents as birth certificates and marriage licenses, often presented to obtain drivers licenses.

To quell the controversy, Nixon ended the scanning of concealed/carry permits and accepted the resignation of department director Brian Long. But Nixon has objected to calls to end the scanning and preservation of other personal documents, citing federal anti-terrorism efforts.

But House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, and other Republican legislators have continued to be upset over the issue – ire that appears to be fueling the frenzy to approve gun-related legislation.

Tuesday’s action on HB 859 generated heated debate between state Reps. Wanda Brown, R-Cole Camp, and Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, over the provisions encouraging the arming of school personnel. Brown backs the idea, while Newman does not.

Newman contended that having more firearms in schools “increases the chances of someone getting hurt or dead.”

Brown retorted that “people like you have fought for years to make those gun-free school zones’’ and, in her opinion, were partly to blame for school shootings, such as the deaths of first graders in Newtown, Conn.

The bill passed 123-34.

Tax breaks to attract gun makers to Missouri

Later Tuesday, Connecticut came up again – this time when state Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, proposed targeting tax credits to gun manufacturers. White’s amendment, which won first-round approval, calls for earmarking up to $3 million a year in state tax credits to induce gun manufacturers to move to Missouri.

White told legislators that he’s read that several gun manufacturers in Connecticut are seeking to move to other states in the wake of Connecticut’s new gun restrictions.

White said he was seeking to send a message to the gun industry that “we like you….We are really interested.”

His amendment was added to the “Missouri Firearms Freedom Act’’ that seeks to exempt Missouri from most federal gun restrictions. Chief sponsor, state Rep. Chrissy Sommer, R-St. Charles, said the act still would allow the enforcement of federal laws against automatic weapons.

Sommer added that she shared the optimism that more gun manufacturers may consider moving to Missouri.

Another amendment approved Tuesday allows sheriffs to collect fingerprints from people seeking concealed-carry permits to make sure they are not felons or otherwise barred from carrying a firearm. Such fingerprints could not be stored by the sheriffs and would be destroyed as soon as it is determined whether the applicant qualifies for a concealed-carry permit.

Many of the House's pro-gun measures face an uncertain future in the state Senate, where some Democrats have so far filibustered or delayed floor action on some pro-gun proposals.

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