Missouri government employees are being discriminated against, state Rep. Jeanie Riddle told a Senate committee Tuesday - and she wants to change that.
"This bill allows a Missouri state employee the right to have a firearm in his, or her, vehicle on the state's property - provided the vehicle is locked and the firearm is not visible," Riddle, R-Mokane, told the Senate's General Laws Committee. "We can have them on other parking lots all over the state.
"You can have it in hospital parking lots ... courthouse parking lots, airport parking lots, school parking lots all over the state."
Riddle's bill would cover lots at state-owned buildings as well as those where the state leases the office space.
But Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, would prefer that no one be allowed to keep guns in their vehicles - even though the current law's been on the books for a decade.
"You do know that many of the stolen guns that are on the streets were stolen out of cars?" she asked Riddle. "The bulk of the guns that are illegally on the streets is a direct correlation between those individuals who leave their guns inside their cars versus having them on their persons."
Nasheed wondered why anyone would want a weapon in a vehicle.
"They can't protect themselves if they have the gun in the car and they're walking to the door!" she said.
But, Riddle explained: "This is for going to and from work.
"I drive home at night, very late, on a very desolate piece of road."
Under the current law preventing employees from keeping weapons in their parked, locked vehicles, she said, "There's no means for me to protect myself, should I have car trouble, should someone show up (who) was unsavory when I had car trouble.
"This is just allowing you to protect yourself going and coming."
National Rifle Association lobbyist Whitney O'Daniel told the committee that business owners' property rights outweigh a person's right to carry a concealed weapon - which is why the concealed carry law allows public and private buildings to post a sign saying weapons aren't allowed in that building.
"If they leave it in the vehicle, no one knows it's there except the owner of the vehicle," O'Daniel said.
Riddle's bill originally contained only the weapons-in-vehicles issue.
But the House added two amendments that, committee chairman Brian Nieves, R-Washington, said, should be removed.
State Reps. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, and Michele Kratky, D-St. Louis, won colleagues' approval of language adding some mandatory jail sentences for certain weapons crimes.
"It sounds good," Ron Calzone of Dixon, head of the group Missouri First, told the Senate committee Tuesday.
"But we've gone felony crazy in this building sometimes," he said. "I think we should leave it up to the discretion of juries and judges, to determine how long somebody should spend in prison - and not code it into our statutes."
Nieves agreed, promising the committee he'll ask them to approve a stripped-down substitute for the full Senate to debate.
"I'm just afraid that (the House amendments) go way too far," Nieves said.