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Moms flood Missouri Capitol to support 'common-sense gun reform'

Moms flood Missouri Capitol to support 'common-sense gun reform'

February 20th, 2019 by Joe Gamm in Local News

After a general gathering session and group photograph, those participating in Moms Demand Action day at the Capitol on Tuesday broke into smaller groups to lobby their respective legislators on a bill aimed at protecting people from gun violence.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

Occasionally a red tide rolls over the Missouri state Capitol.

Tuesday was one of those days when a wave of red-T-shirt-sporting advocates swept into Jefferson City to push for change.

During its annual advocacy day, more than 450 volunteers with the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America lobbied lawmakers to support a bill that would prevent people convicted of domestic violence from owning or possessing a firearm.

House Bill 960, introduced by state Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis, would require courts that order a full order of protection after a hearing to prohibit any respondent from possessing or purchasing firearms while the order is in effect, inform the respondent of the order either orally or in writing, and forward the order to the Missouri Highway Patrol for enforcement.

The prohibition would be permanent, according to Karen Rogers, a volunteer with the Kansas City-based chapter of Moms Demand Action.

"That is strong language," she said. "But that's also what we find is the safest option. It also is the one that protects the most people."

Federal law says people who have been convicted of domestic violence — and who have had a protective order issued against them — after a hearing and after due process may no longer have a gun, Colleen Coble, CEO of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, told volunteers during a rally Tuesday.

The federal law came about in the mid-1990s.

"I brought a little moniker here — a little memento from that early effort," Coble said as she showed the crowded ballroom inside the DoubleTree Hotel a blue campaign button. "Which was the button that says 'No guns for wife beaters.' And though our language might have evolved and changed over the years, that's still the point."

Moms Demand Action wants legislators to know it is inefficient to have a federal law with no way for the local police officer, or prosecutor or judge to enforce the law, Coble said.

"I don't know about you, but in my neighborhood, I don't routinely see an (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) officer," she said. "And that's where we are. That's what the process is now. You would have to find a federal ATF officer to make your report to — that you're a victim of domestic violence and the person who hurt you still has a firearm."

They would take that report to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Then it would be filed before a federal judge.

"And that ain't happening," Coble warned.

So it's up to community members to explain to legislators that this is about public safety. The protection order provisions are directed toward people who have committed child abuse, domestic violence, stalking, sexual assaults and rape, she said.

"Those are the people who are most likely to repeat those offenses," she said, "and to increase their levels of violence."

Among other states, Missouri isn't in the top 10 of many categories, she said.

"We are not seventh in anything, but we are seventh in the number of women killed by men," Coble continued. "In the majority of those homicides, a firearm was the lethal weapon."

In 2017, 65 Missouri women were killed by their domestic partners, she said.

Missouri changed its concealed carry law in 2016, removing the provision that a person had to have a permit to have a concealed weapon. Prior to the change, the only place in the law where the state provided domestic violence protections was when law enforcement conducted background checks in the process for people to obtain a firearms permit, she said.

"This is a public safety matter. This is homicide prevention. This is ensuring that our communities can take action to ensure that those that pose ongoing threats of violence to their family and to their partners don't have an opportunity to use lethal force," Coble said.

Following Coble's pep talk, the advocates moved up to the Capitol and broke into teams who were to meet with their own lawmakers.

Team 27 included Danielle Rumford, of Jefferson City; Pat Pallardy, of the Lake of the Ozarks area; and others who gathered to plot their route through the Capitol. Their goal was to pitch support for HB 960 to Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City; Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville; Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Lake Ozark; and Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial.

"We are talking about common-sense gun reform — and more specifically HB 960, which is a bill to prevent people who are convicted of domestic violence from having firearms," Rumford said.

Pallardy said she recently retired to the Lake of the Ozarks area.

"I would like Rocky (Miller) to consider common-sense gun legislation to keep guns away from dangerous people," she said, "like people who have been convicted of domestic abuse."

It's important legislation, the advocates said.

"And it's not taking away anybody's Second Amendment right because they have had due process," Pallardy said. "Because there's no state law. We would have to go to federal agents to enforce that law, and that's really difficult to do."