By John Celock
The Republican-controlled Missouri House of Representatives advanced legislation Tuesday that would nullify federal gun control laws in the state, the second year in a row Show Me State Lawmakers have advanced such a bill.
The bill’s approval came after a lengthy and heated debate that focused on whether teachers should carry guns to provide protections and the overall gun culture in the state. Missouri is one of two Midwestern states to approve gun rights legislation on Tuesday, with the GOP-controlled Kansas state Senate approving a bill allowing the state to block local gun control initiatives.
Supporters of the bill said that it is needed to preserve Second Amendment rights in the state and to stop what they see as federal gun laws that do not support gun rights. Similar laws have been proposed in other states following President Barack Obama’s January 2013 push for new federal gun control laws following the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“This body has a chance to push back against an ever crushing federal government that knows no limits to its egregious over reach,” state Rep. Doug Funderburk (R-St. Peters) told his colleagues during the debate.
Last year both houses of the Missouri Legislature passed similar legislation, which was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon (D). While the state House moved to override Nixon’s veto, a push to override in the state Senate failed by one vote.
Opponents, including Nixon, question the law’s constitutionality, saying that a state cannot stop the enforcement of a federal law and potentially arrest federal agents. They noted that a legal challenge would be likely. Kansas and Montana have passed laws last year that would nullify all federal gun laws for guns made in the states that do not leave the state. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has indicated that the federal government may take Kansas and Montana to court over their law.
Rep. Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis), an opponent of the bill, told her colleagues that the Legislature has talked about life in the past but this bill does not address deaths of children by guns.
“Earlier this session when you were talking about the drug bill, the sponsor asked how many kids have to die before we take action. On the 72-hour waiting bill and the parental notification bill, we said over and over that we protect life,” Newman said. “When we debated the tort reform bill you said what about the victims. Yet this is the second year in a row that we will do nothing to stop the gun deaths.”
The 72-hour and parental notification bills Newman cited were aimed to restrict the number of abortions in Missouri.
During the debate on arming teachers, legislators disclosed a number of lawmakers were carrying concealed weapons with them on the floor. Lawmakers in support of the measure, noted that the guns on the floor were a deterrent to criminals from trying to shoot in the Capitol. Lawmakers used the debate to amend the bill to remove the arming of teachers.
The supporters noted that if teachers can become armed, they will be able to provide immediate protection in the case a shooter comes into their classroom. In addition, they noted that a shooter would be less likely to shoot if they did not know who is armed. The supporters said that guns are not a problem.
“One of the concerns I had when I taught was I had no way to protect my kids from an evil person. Guns are not evil but people do evil things,” one lawmaker said. “Guns do not get up and shoot people. If we were concerned about the item we would not allow baseball bats.”
Opponents of the teachers carrying guns noted that a gun could get into the hands of a student and cause an injury.
In Kansas, the Senate debate focused on legislation which would end local laws banning concealed carry. The bill has been pushed in order to provide what sponsors say is a uniform gun law across the state, instead of individual laws in certain communities.
During the Senate debate, lawmakers discussed allowing libraries and community centers from being exempt from the requirements to install security equipment before allowing concealed carry. Proponents said that cuts to library budgets are making the equipment too expensive and that librarians want to allow the weapons.
Newman used her speech to say that her colleagues were caving into special interest pressure from the gun lobby, noting that a similar lobby does not help children.
“Why are we doing this today. You know why, because there is no little kid lobby in the Capitol. There is no little kid lobby who will donate to your campaign. There is no voice for the little kids who will be shot this year and next year and the next.,” Newman said. “We turn our backs on the kids who are shot. We forget them. We ignore their deaths. There is another lobby in this Legislature that is louder and has more dollars. This bill protects one concern, the businesses that profit from more gun and ammunition sales.”