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Funderburk says he'll work with Dempsey and Richard on new gun bill

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 13, 2013: The House sponsor of a pro-gun bill that came within one vote of becoming Missouri law during this week's veto session is pledging to work with the two fellow Republicans in the state Senate who killed the bill – Senate leaders Tom Dempsey and Ron Richard – to come up with a compromise version to be considered next year.

On Wednesday, Dempsey and Richard cast the deciding the votes that killed the bill, HB436, officially known as the "Second Amendment Preservation Act." Among other things, the bill – vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon – would have nullified all federal gun laws in the state and barred their enforcement.

Rep. Doug Funderburk, R-St. Charles, was the House sponsor of the bill. It also would have lowered the minimum age for people allowed to carry concealed weapons, authorized school personnel to be armed and barred publication of the name of any gun owner.

Funderburk had succeeded Wednesday in garnering the exact number of House votes – 109 – to override Nixon's veto, only to see it die in the Senate. But in a press release sent out on Friday, Funderburk said there were no hard feelings.

The lawmaker said he was committed to working with Dempsey and Richard “on a new bill defending Missourians’ Second Amendment rights.”

“I agree with the Senate’s efforts to improve what was contained in my House Bill 436, relieve concerns over possible errors, and put a bill defending Missourians’ Second Amendment rights on the governor’s desk at the beginning of next session,” Funderburk said. “This issue is important to all of us, and I appreciate Sen. Dempsey and Sen. Richard’s commitment to the Constitution and good public policy.”

Richard had announced his opposition just days before veto session, saying he shared the concerns of law enforcement that HB436's wording could lead to lawsuits filed by anyone arrested for a gun-related offense.

Dempsey, the Senate president pro tem, had said he was concerned – but didn't make his position clear until he cast the deciding vote killing HB436.

Afterward, Dempsey quickly issued a statement saying that while he was “a proud and faithful supporter of the Second Amendment,” he had “reached a point where, in my view, political prudence and good public policy have parted ways, and I have been forced to pick which path I will follow.”

Dempsey cited, along other concerns, his belief that the bill's ban against publishing the names of gun owners, without exception, violated the Constitution's First Amendment right of free speech.

Funderburk went onto say that he recognized that "we need to get this bill right from the start'' since Gov. Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster are Democrats, and the General Assembly is controlled by Republicans.

Koster issued a last-minute letter detailing a litany of legal concerns about the bill. Subsequently, a parade of law-enforcement groups announced their opposition to HB436. The National Rifle Association took no position on the bill. (Allies of Koster, who is running for governor in 2016, noted that he previously has been endorsed by the NRA.)

Funderburk took note of the legal concerns. “With that in mind, I welcome the continued input from our law enforcement and prosecutors to ensure that this bill supports their efforts to fight crime while also protecting our citizens’ right to lawfully bear arms,” he added.

For his part, Dempsey said in a statement that he appreciated Funderburk’s willingness to work with him and Richard on a new bill that not only “clearly protects the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of the Show-Me State, but does so in a manner that does not tie the hands of Missouri’s law enforcement community, including our locally elected sheriffs.

“Sen. Richard and I both have a deep respect for the Constitution and the oath we have taken to defend it,” Dempsey said. “The continued threat to our essential liberties from a hostile administration in Washington demands a response. The Missouri General Assembly will rise to the occasion.”

Added Richard in his own statement: “Our men and women in law enforcement deserve our respect and gratitude for their service. I know they will continue working with us to correct some possible conflicts in the original bill. Perhaps as much as any other group of professionals, these men and women in uniform are passionate about defending us from those who wish to restrict our Second Amendment rights.”

When Funderburk’s bill passed 109-49 in the Missouri House, two Republicans – Reps. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, and Noel Torpey, D-Jackson County – voted against it. Three Democrats – Reps. Ed Schieffer, D-Troy, Ben Harris, D-Jefferson County, and Michael Frame, D-Jefferson County – voted for it, which was critical to getting the bill to the Senate.

Beacon political reporter Jo Mannies contributed information to this article.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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