Nixon OKs concealed gun bill; vetoes election bill

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Younger Missouri residents will be allowed to get a permit for a concealed gun in Missouri under legislation signed Friday by Gov. Jay Nixon, but he rejected other bills dealing with elections and billboards.

In all, Nixon signed 22 bills into law while vetoing seven others. The Democratic governor’s office announced its actions on the legislation shortly before 5 p.m. on Friday.

Among the highest-profile bills signed into law was a concealed gun measure. It sets the state’s minimum age for getting a concealed gun permit at 21 years old, eliminating the previous age limit of 23 set by the Legislature in 2003 when lawmakers overrode the veto of then-Gov. Bob Holden and enacted the concealed-carry law.

Most states allow residents to carry a concealed gun, and Missouri’s age requirement had been the highest in the nation, according to the National Rifle Association. Many states also have an age limit of 21, though others allow permits to be issued to people as young as 18 years old and a few allow concealed guns to be carried without a permit.

Supporters of lowering the age limit say letting people carry a concealed gun allows individuals to protect themselves. The measure won final approval in the Republican-controlled Legislature in the last hour of the session that ended this past May.

Besides lowering the age limit, the bill also changes a training requirement for getting the permit. People now will be required to shoot at least 50 rounds with a revolver and a semiautomatic pistol instead of a total of 50 rounds with any handgun.

Legislation that Nixon vetoed Friday includes a bill that would have required special elections to fill vacancies for many statewide elected offices instead of allowing the governor to appoint someone to serve out the remaining term. That bill also would have made changes to local elections and pushed back Missouri’s presidential primary.

In a letter explaining his veto, Nixon said his objections were to the portions dealing with local elections and the filling of vacancies in statewide elected offices. The governor said he supported pushing back the presidential primary, which is needed for Missouri to comply with rules set by the national Democratic and Republican parties. However, a veto affects the entire bill, so the presidential primary portion was tossed out too.

Missouri Republicans called the veto “reckless.” They said Nixon should have raised his concerns about the two portions of the legislation sooner and that they hoped the Legislature would override the veto.

“In an extraordinarily irresponsible and shortsighted move, Gov. Jay Nixon has disrupted the presidential nominating process with the stroke of a pen,” Republican Party Chairman David Cole said. “By vetoing the bipartisan elections bill, Nixon has ensured that Missourians’ votes for the next president of the United States will not matter as much as those from 49 other states.”

Nixon said the portion of the bill that deals with local elections could have cancelled elections for local offices in more than 900 communities that have a population of less than 35,000 if the number of candidates equaled the number of positions to be filled. He said that would have barred write-in candidates in those races.

The governor said the portion dealing with vacant statewide elected offices would have required governors to call a special election to fill the vacancy no matter how much time remained until the next regular election for that office. He estimated the special election would cost $7 million.

Nixon also vetoed changes to the billboard laws that he said would have limited the power of local governments to regulate the signs in their communities. The billboard provisions would have barred local governments from prohibiting billboards, though they still could have set rules on the size, height, lighting and spacing of the signs that is stricter than the state’s policies. The governor said local control over billboards allows for signs to be placed in areas that balance economic development and community values.

Lawmakers could override Nixon’s vetoes and enact the legislation with a two-thirds majority vote in the House and in the Senate. The Legislature returns to the state Capitol in September to decide whether to attempt to override any of Nixon’s vetoes.

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