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General Assembly Approves Bill Expanding Gun Rights, Lowers Concealed-Carry Age

A gun show in Houston, Texas, in 2007.
M Glasgow | Flickr

Just hours before adjournment, the Missouri General Assembly has approved a bill that lowers the state’s legal age for carrying concealed weapons to 19 and allows the open carrying of firearms by any person with a valid concealed-carry permit.

The bill also allows schools to designate teachers or administrators as "school protection officers" who can carry a concealed firearm or self-defense spray device. But school districts authorizing the armed officers are required to hold a public hearing on the matter.

The measure was among various pieces of legislation that backers were trying to push through on the final day of the session, particularly since higher-profile matters – such as the tax-cut and the school transfer bill – had been completed.

Among other things, the gun bill also prohibits health care professionals “from documenting or disclosing information regarding a person's status as a firearm owner except under certain specified circumstances.”

The bill would bar municipalities  or other jurisdictions from banning the open carrying of firearms by people who have concealed-carry permits.

The Missouri House passed the bill on Friday by a veto-proof margin, 111-28. The Senate had approved the bill on Thursday by a vote of 21-7, which is not veto-proof.

The current minimum age to carry a concealed weapon in Missouri is 21.

The measure would bar people from carrying a gun along with illegal drugs, but makes an exception for "35 grams or less of marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids. "

The Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action called for Gov. Jay Nixon to veto the bill.

"Reasonable people have differing opinions when it comes to guns— but I think all Missourians can agree that as parents, we have the right to know if there is going to be a gun in our kid’s classrooms,” said the group's spokeswoman, Melissa Brooks. “Missouri moms are deeply disappointed in the legislature’s passage of this dangerous bill, and we urge Governor Nixon to stand with parents across the state by vetoing it.” 

Passage of some sort of pro-gun bill had been sought by gun-rights advocates, particularly since other related measures – such as the bill nullifying most federal laws – have died this session.

Voters to be asked to expand privacy protections to electronic data

The House also added another issue to this fall’s ballot by its approval of a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to protect the privacy of electronic communications.

The chief sponsor -- Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific – said the amendment is needed to guard the public’s privacy.  Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, questioned whether the proposal would block law enforcement from monitoring terrorists’ cell phone calls or allow people to claim that their Facebook posts were private. Roorda ended up voting “present.”

The Senate already has approved the amendment proposal, so it will go directly onto the ballot. No action by the governor is required.

It is to read as follows:

"Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that the people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects?"

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.