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Gun-rights debate sparks bills in Missouri legislature

A St. Louis legislator filed a controversial gun bill last week that local legislators say has no chance of passing, would be lucky to even make it to a hearing and is likely unconstitutional.

Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-University City, filed the bill last week that seeks to make it a Class C felony to manufacture, import, possess, purchase, sell or transfer any assault weapon or large capacity magazine.

“I know there are some people who are concerned about people with high capacity weapons,” said Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City. “There wouldn’t be a lot of people in my district who would be in favor of something like that.”

Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said he thinks Ellinger’s bill was filed to make a statement.

“He’s made his statement, and I think it’s wrong,” Barnes said. “Confiscation of legally obtained firearms is wrong, and the bill is going nowhere.”

Barnes posted to his campaign website’s blog Monday that he has received numerous phone calls and e-mails regarding the bill.

“I am opposed to this legislation and believe it is unconstitutional,” he wrote. “Those concerned about the bill should know that it has zero chance of passing through the Missouri House of Representatives.”

More than 15 bills regarding guns and firearms have been filed in the House thus far into the session. They cover various aspects of gun issues.

Locally, Barnes and Bernskoetter, are cosponsors on a gun bill filed by Rep. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane. The legislation specifies “the state shall not prohibit a state employee from keeping a firearm in his or her vehicle on state property as long as the vehicle is locked and the firearm is not visible.”

Additionally, several proposed bills endorse concealed carry in various situations. One bill prohibits the publication of any identifying information of firearm owners and prohibits health care professionals from being required to disclose a patient’s status as a firearm owner.

Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, D-Kansas City, has filed a bill similar to Ellinger’s. LaFaver’s bill would make it a Class D felony under certain circumstances for any person who owns, possesses, manufactures, purchases or sells a high capacity firearm magazine.

A bill filed by Rep. Chrissy Sommer, R-St. Charles, establishes the Missouri Firearms Freedom Act, which “specifies that a personal firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately in Missouri and that remains within the borders of the state is not subject to federal law or regulation.” Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, filed a similar bill.

Another bill, filed by Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, “authorizes any school district to designate a teacher or administrator as a school protection officer who may carry concealed firearms, after he or she has met specified minimum training requirements.”

Gun legislation has also been filed in the Senate.

Even with proposed state legislation regarding firearms, Gov. Nixon said last week that he thinks gun issues are a national debate, not a state one.

“We can do something about mental health here and put resources for our law enforcement out there,” Nixon said. “We can make sure we’re getting folks the care earlier.

“That to me is much more interesting than a high-pitched debate about which particular type of gun somebody could or couldn’t own.”

Barnes said he thinks the appropriate place for any gun legislation is at the federal level.

“Now, I might disagree with the governor on what would be appropriate gun legislation at the federal level, but as a practical matter, that sounds about right,” Barnes said.

Bernskoetter said he thinks gun issues should be addressed on a state-by-state basis.

“If people want to do something different in Illinois than we do in Missouri, that’s fine with me,” he said. “I think that we’d be better served making up our own gun issues in Missouri instead of at a federal level.”

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