The National Rifle Association urged Missouri state senators Wednesday to reject a gun rights bill because of a provision it says could lead to gun owner registry.
In a notice posted on its website, the NRA urged its members to call Missouri lawmakers and tell them to vote "no" on legislation that would seek to nullify some federal gun control laws and jail federal agents for enforcing them. The association cited an amendment approved Tuesday night to the bill that would require gun owners to report a stolen firearm within 72 hours of learning about the theft.
"Police resources should be focused on finding the real criminals responsible, not further victimizing those who have had not only their belongings stolen, but their sense of security and privacy as well," the NRA said in its written statement.
The association said it has opposed similar legislation nationally for years. By requiring gun owners to tell police when firearms are missing, it "seeks to create a de-facto gun owner registry," the NRA said.
Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, sponsored the provisions, which was added to the bill by a voice vote of the Republican-led Senate. The Senate then gave first-round approval to the measure Tuesday night, but it needs one more vote before moving to the House.
"Sometimes, the NRA, they go to extremes," Nasheed said. "This way we know how many stolen guns are out on the street for the law enforcement officers."
The NRA had not weighed in on Missouri's attempt to nullify federal gun control laws, but broke its silence after the reporting provision was added to the bill.
The organization said Nasheed's amendment would penalize gun owners for failing to report a stolen firearm with up to a year in prison or a $1,000 fine. While that punishment is not part of Nasheed's amendment, it is the penalty proscribed by the bill for federal agents who knowingly attempt to enforce federal laws the state considers to be infringements on gun owners.
The measure's sponsor, Sen. Brian Nieves, said he hadn't talked with representatives of the NRA, but added that the group's position on the legislation wouldn't affect his view. Nieves, R-Washington, did not object to Nasheed's amendment during debate.
"I wouldn't raise it on a flagpole and say it's the greatest thing I've ever seen, but I can live with it," he said Wednesday.
Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard said Missouri's record on gun rights is stellar.
"We're the poster child for the second amendment in the country," said Richard, R-Joplin. "We have a good relationship with the NRA and other gun advocates and I suspect that will continue."
The measure also would give school districts the option to designate personnel to carry a concealed weapon in school buildings. Another provision of the bill would let holders of concealed gun permits carry firearms openly, even in municipalities with ordinances banning open carry.
Nieves' legislation would also lower the minimum age to get a concealed weapons permit to 19 from the current age of 21 and would state that health care professionals could not be required to ask or document whether a patient owns a firearm.
If passed, Missouri's measure would likely face a legal challenge over the attempt to nullify some federal gun control laws. Courts have consistently ruled that states cannot nullify federal laws. Missouri's Republican-controlled Legislature passed a similar measure last year, but it was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.