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Leara causes stir with bill criminalizing gun control legislation

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 19, 2013 - The debate over gun control in the Missouri General Assembly took a curious turn this week when a St. Louis County lawmaker offered up a bill making it a felony for a lawmaker to propose legislation “that further restricts an individual's right to bear arms.”

State Rep. Mike Leara, R-St. Louis County, introduced legislation on Monday stating that “any member of the General Assembly who proposes a piece of legislation that further restricts the right of an individual to bear arms, as set forth under the second amendment of the Constitution of the United States, shall be guilty of a class D felony.” The measure was second read on Tuesday but was not referred to a committee.

Leara’s measure has sparked a national social media frenzy.

It also has provoked a reaction from Missouri Democratic lawmakers who have supported gun control bills, such as state Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights.

Newman tweeted last night that Leara’s bill “would send me directly to prison. No joke.” Newman – who’s been active in the gun control movement for years – is one of numerous Democratic lawmakers who have introduced legislation to restrict firearms.

“Counting on you all visiting me in prison,” Newman tweeted further.

In a statement, Leara said he introduced the bill “as a matter of principle and as a statement in defense of the Second Amendment rights of all Missourians.”

“I have no illusions about the bill making it through the legislative process, but I want it to be clear that the Missouri House will stand in defense of the people’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” Leara said.

The bill comes as Republicans in the legislature have aggressively pushed back against gun control proposals from Democratic lawmakers. They’ve been particularly adamant in opposing state Rep. Rory Ellinger’s bill to make it a class C felony “to manufacture, import, possess, purchase, sell, or transfer any assault weapon or large capacity magazine.”

A legislative summary of that bill also states that anyone legally in possession of “an assault weapon or large capacity magazine prior to the effective date of these provisions” would have 90 days to remove those items from the state, render the weapon permanently inoperable, or surrender them to the appropriate law enforcement agency for destruction.

State Rep. Caleb Jones, R-California, said in a Tweet that the “only way this bill will pass is if a hammer and sickle is sewn onto Old Glory.” And state Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, even filmed a web video that features people literally shooting holes in a copy of the bill.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.