By Paul Thompson

Northeast News

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – With the Missouri General Assembly prepared to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of Senate Bill 656, Kansas City leaders convened on Tuesday, September 13 to speak out against the controversial gun rights legislation.

Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Sly James was joined at the Rose Brooks domestic violence shelter by a handful of city leaders, including Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp, and Deputy Chief of Police Cheryl Rose, to lobby a final appeal against the bill, which they warned will make Kansas City residents less safe and guns more pervasive.

“As of today, Kansas City has had 82 homicides, and almost 89% of them have been committed with a firearm,” said Rose. “Any legislation that would hamper law enforcement’s ability to get guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them is a detriment to our city.”

Rose also contended that the bill would provide protections for domestic violence abusers.

“If Senate Bill 656 goes into effect, police would have no legal ground to remove a weapon from an abuser convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence assault, even if that person’s dangerous behavior has escalated,” said Rose. “That’s a very scary prospect for domestic violence victims.”

Senate Bill 656 passed through the House and Senate earlier this year with enough votes to override Governor Nixon’s June veto. If the vote remains the same during the veto session on Wednesday, September 14, then the bill will become law.

SB656 lowers the age of qualification for a concealed carry permit from 21 years of age to 19. It also expands gun rights in self-defense situations, allows Missouri residents greater protections when protecting their homes, and perhaps most importantly, allows citizens who are legally allowed to possess a firearm to do so for self-defense without first obtaining a permit.

County Prosecutor Baker described her concern over the elimination of permits as she held up a photo of an automatic weapon that was used in a recent Kansas City shooting.

“What kind of hands will guns like this be in? Imagine for a moment the danger that bills like this continue to put our law enforcement in,” said Baker. “This is a real thing. This is a real weapon; it was a real shooting. It contains about 100 rounds of ammunition, and it was in the hands of someone who was very dangerous.”

The text of Senate Bill 656 states that gun owners would not legally be able to obtain a permit if they have pled guilty to, been convicted of, or pled no contest to a misdemeanor offense involving crimes of violence in the five years preceding a concealed carry application. Concealed carry applicants must also affirm that they have not been convicted of two or more misdemeanor offenses of driving under the influence or possession of a controlled substance in the five years preceding the application. Of course, the law would also circumvent the need for applying for concealed carry permits.

In a veto letter sent by Nixon in late June, the Missouri Governor explained why he couldn’t support SB656. Chief among his concerns was that the legislation would eliminate the current training requirements for legal gun owners to conceal and carry their weapons. Nixon further noted that the bill would eliminate the authority of sheriffs to deny concealed carry permits to individuals deemed too dangerous to do so. In addition to classroom and range training, Nixon wrote, current Missouri law requires a background check and a sheriff’s review as part of the application for a concealed carry permit. According to Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp, that authority has allowed the county to prevent some 900 potentially dangerous individuals from carrying a gun.

Mayor James made an impassioned case for sustaining Governor Nixon’s veto, arguing that domestic violence victims, local law enforcement, and the community at large would be best-served by maintaining the current procedures regarding concealed carry permits.

 “We cannot protect women and children from their abusers if we are making it easier for those abusers to carry a concealed weapon,” said James. “We cannot continue to put the lives of our law enforcement partners in danger as they seek to serve and protect our community. And we absolutely cannot sit back and watch as lawmakers make it easier for criminals to commit slow motion mass murder in our neighborhoods and our schools.”