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Local lawmakers weigh in on bump stocks, armed teachers

Local lawmakers weigh in on bump stocks, armed teachers

February 25th, 2018 by Joe Gamm in Local News

A ban on bump stocks would be a step in creating common-sense gun regulations, advocates for stronger gun control said, but it would be a beginning.

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On Tuesday, six days after a gunman used an assault rifle to kill 17 people at a school in Parkland, Florida, President Donald Trump signed a memo directing the Justice Department to propose regulations to ban the devices and similar items that can be used to turn semi-automatic weapons in to fully automatic weapons.

A volunteer with the St. Louis chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Kim Westerman said any move to remove fully automatic weapons is a positive.

"This measure — it seems Republicans are willing to take steps to improve gun safety," Westerman said. "We think it's a great step."

Any effort to regulate bump stocks and high-capacity magazines is seen as a positive sign, she said. A magazine holds the shells for semi-automatic and automatic weapons. If a magazine holds more than the standard number of rounds of ammunition the weapon was designed to hold, it is considered a high-capacity magazine.

Moms Demand Action was created after Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six adult staff members Dec. 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The nonprofit organization held its Missouri Lobby Day last Tuesday.

Coincidentally, Tuesday was the day the Missouri House of Representatives General Laws Committee was set to hear a number of Republican-backed firearms bills. However, the House delayed the hearings until Monday because Republican leaders wanted to include Democratic bills in the committee.

Questions about high-capacity magazines have risen after some mass shootings. There was a push to ban bump stocks after Stephen Paddock on Oct. 1, 2017, opened fire on the Las Vegas Strip from a Mandalay Bay Hotel room. Paddock killed 58 people and the incident resulted in 851 people receiving non-fatal injuries. He had modified numerous guns with the devices.

"Bump stocks, high-capacity magazines, assault weapons — all of those are extra dangerous," Westerman said.

Questions about guns and schools have continued to evolve this week, she said.

On Wednesday, Trump suggested teachers should be armed to prevent gun violence in schools, which some saw as an appeasement for the National Rifle Association. The annual Conservative Political Action Conference began Thursday morning. The conference brings together conservative activists and elected officials every year. NRA Director Wayne LaPierre said shortly after the conference started that liberals exploit tragedies for political gain and are simply trying to gain more control over people.

A salesman at PCA Guns in Jefferson City said that after LaPierre spoke sales shot up and the store was "getting hammered."

Kern Robins, owner of Boggs Creek Gun Shop for the past 36 years, said his shop didn't see such a noteworthy bump in business. He said his shop doesn't handle bump stocks or fully automatic weapons, which are legal in Missouri. To sell them, dealers have to seek a higher classification than he carries.

Robins said there are factors that push sales.

"At times, there are ups and downs," he said. "They only go up when people think they're going to ban them."

Late Thursday morning, Trump modified his suggestion that teachers should be armed and offered an incentive. He suggested during a meeting with law enforcement officials that teachers who carry should be paid more. He also said they should be trained to use firearms.

Missouri state Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, appeared to reflect the president's views on protecting schools. Kehoe went further, saying the General Assembly prefers to let local schools control their own security.

"We like schools to pick what they're going to do," Kehoe said. "But, if there's a way the state could incentivize, maybe through the budget or appropriations process, schools to consider having security on site, I think that would go a long way toward giving people comfort."

Campus security is a conversation policymakers should be having, he added, but school boards must be involved.

State Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said the challenge is keeping residents safe without infringing on their liberties.

State Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said a bump stock ban is a step in the right direction. However, he said, some other steps could be taken in Missouri. For instance, a bill he would like to see go to committee would create a "no-buy-guns" list, similar to a "no-fly" list. The bill has not been referred to committee.

The General Laws Committee is scheduled to hear gun bills at noon Monday.

Most of the bills removed from the committee last week are to be considered in the hearing. One, HB 1382, which would eliminate 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, was not returned to the schedule. That bill is sponsored by state Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Lake Ozark. Miller did not return calls concerning the legislation.

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Merideth, a member of the General Laws Committee, said one of the most controversial bills the committee considers is HB 1936, which would change the list of locations a person can carry a concealed firearm within Missouri. It also would prohibit colleges and universities from creating policies preventing employees or students from carrying concealed weapons.

"It's the last place that you should be allowing a gun," Merideth said. "That's the bill I get the most phone calls about."

Merideth's own bill, HB 1733, has been referred to the committee. That bill would repeal permitless carry and "enhanced stand-your-ground" legislation passed in 2006, he said. Others referred to the committee are HB 1342, which would make it a misdemeanor for a person to sell, deliver or otherwise transfer firearm ammunition or accessories to minors; and HB 2281, which requires any sale or transfer of firearms to be conducted by a federally licensed firearms dealer.

HB 1849 and HB 2279, which have been referred to the committee, are not in its agenda for Monday. Those bills, supporters said, would help law enforcement keep firearms out of the hands of domestic violence offenders.

Monday's hearing is expected to be crowded. Its online agenda warns that because of anticipated high turnout, testimony will be limited to three minutes per person.