Missouri Republican leadership said it wanted to be fair to colleagues across the aisle when it postponed hearings on firearms bills in the Missouri House of Representatives General Laws Committee, scheduled for tonight.
Committee Chairman Robert Cornejo, R-St. Peters, said notice of changes to the hearings went out early Monday afternoon. Hearings on the bills will now take place Feb. 26.
Six gun-related bills were removed from the Monday's agenda. Among them were House Bill 1256, which would make it illegal to require electronic firearm tracking systems; HB 1326, authorizing a tax deduction for the costs of firearm training or firearm safety courses; 1382, eliminating the requirement that concealed carry permit holders get permission from the minister or persons representing such a religious organization in order to carry concealed firearms in churches or other places of worship; HB 1865, stating lawful owners of firearms may transport or store the firearms in locked, privately owned motor vehicles; and 1936, changes the list of locations a person can carry a concealed firearm within Missouri. Also prohibits colleges and universities from creating policies preventing employees or students from carrying concealed weapons.
"The speaker's office plans on referring more to my committee," Cornejo said.
The rationale is that they wanted more time to be certain Democratic bills would be heard, Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said.
"I can't help but imagine that after last week that they don't want to have it on the same day as Moms Demand Action Lobby Day," Merideth said.
Still on peoples' minds are the 17 people shot and killed at a Parkland, Florida, high school, he said.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was created after Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six adult staff members on Dec. 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, said Becky Morgan, the volunteer chapter leader for Missouri.
The children were 6 to 7 years old. Lanza committed suicide when first responders arrived.
It was coincidence the bills fell on Moms Demand Action's annual lobby day, which was scheduled months ago, Morgan said.
Legislators were also aware the bills were to be heard on the organization's lobby day, Cornejo said. However, neither the lobby day, nor the Florida shooting affected the decision to delay hearing the bills.
"Whether we delay it two days, two weeks or two months, the opposition's still going to make the same arguments," he said.
So are Republicans, Merideth said.
In past election years, Republicans made their gun debate as loud as possible, Merideth said.
"The tone of the conversation is shifting on this right now," he said. "Maybe, for the first time in a long time, for Missouri the outlook may not be 'more guns, more guns, more guns.'"
Students who survived the shootings in Parkland are at the head of a groundswell of support for organizations that promote common-sense gun laws, Morgan said.
"People have really had it with gun violence," she said. "They see it on the federal level and the state level — no common-sense action."
That's a reason for the annual Moms Demand Action Lobby Day, she said.
Hundreds of people are expected to gather at 10 a.m. today at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, 415 W. McCarty St., then march to the Capitol to meet with state lawmakers. They'll be at the Capitol until about 2 p.m.
And when the bills go back to committees, the organization will return to the Capitol so members' voices can be heard, Morgan said.
"We always show up for hearings," she said. "We are usually there to oppose legislation that is proposed in Missouri."
Something different may happen this year, she added.
The General Assembly might hear several bills the organization supports.