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Missouri General Assembly votes to expand legal use of deadly force known as Stand Your Ground

After Sen. Jamilah Nasheed of St. Louis started to filibuster, Sen. Bob Dixon withdrew his crime bill.
Jason Rosenbaum | St Louis Public Radio
After Sen. Jamilah Nasheed of St. Louis started to filibuster, Sen. Bob Dixon withdrew his crime bill.

Updated with final House action - The Missouri House has sent to Gov. Jay Nixon a broad version of what’s called a Stand Your Ground law, that would allow a law-abiding person to use deadly force in any public place, even if they are not under immediate threat of harm.

The bill also expands concealed-carry rights.

The House's final 114- 36 vote was comfortably above the 109 votes needed to overturn a possible Nixon veto. The Senate's 24-8 vote, taken earlier Friday,  had two supportive votes more than needed to override the governor.

Passage makes Missouri the first state to pass such a law in years. Backers say the Stand Your Ground provision is needed for protection. Opponents contended the measure would legalize murder.

The provision states that “a person does not have a duty to retreat from any place such person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity has a right to be.”

It is part of a broader crime bill. In addition to Stand Your Ground, the bill would allow for constitutional carry, which allows gun owners to carry their firearms concealed, without a permit.

Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, said the bill is the next step in protecting the Second Amendment rights of Missourians.

"If you don’t have a permit right now, every law-abiding citizen 18-years or older has a legal right to open carry a firearm," said Munzlinger. "No permit is needed for that. If you have constitutional carry, every law-aiding citizen 18-years or older would have the legal right to open carry or concealed carry. And personally, I think concealed carry would be much better."

Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, was among the Democrats who disagreed and launched a filibuster Friday in an unsuccessful attempt to kill the legislation.

"We're essentially authorizing a citizen without training to have a firearm," said Holsman. "Then another citizen who is afraid that that citizen has a firearm can shoot and kill them, because they feel they're in fear for their life because that untrained citizen has a firearm."

Missouri's provision would be the first Stand Your Ground measure passed by any state since Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida in 2012. The man who shot him, George Zimmerman, cited that state’s Stand Your Ground law in his successful defense.

The broad Stand Your Ground provision was first approved Thursday by the Missouri House as an amendment to Sen. Bob Dixon's expansive law-enforcement bill. Friday's final vote was required because of some last-minute changes in the Senate.

Black semi-automatic pistol
Credit (via Flickr/kcds)

“What we’re doing is removing all logical restrictions for murder,’’ said state Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City.

Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, said during Friday's House debate that the issue was protection. "You're not to retreat, you're to go towards the threat."

The provision expands on the state's Castle Doctrine, which allows people to use deadly force in their homes if they fear for their safety. Opponents cited studies that indicate homicides have increased in states that have Stand Your Ground laws.

(St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce tweeted her concern during Thursday's House debate.)

One of the bill’s supporters, Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, R-Carrolton, told Stand Your Ground opponents that their resistance could threaten the bill’s other necessary items, which  include:

  • protections for victims of stalking or domestic violence,
  • a ban against shackling of pregnant women inmates, except in unusual cases;
  • tighter restrictions governing police officers’ use of deadly force.

Police use of force redefined

Meanwhile, lawmakers sent an updated use of force statute to Nixon (it was placed in a bill, HB2332, that does not have Stand Your Ground language in it). This had been a priority since a Ferguson police officer shot and killed Michael Brown in 2014.

“We’ve needed to update our statutes dealing with use of deadly force by law enforcement as a result of Supreme Court cases, going back to 1985,” said state Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City. “We’ve tried to do it over the last several years and haven’t been able to get it done. Last year, the House passed it out and it died the Senate due to other events.

“So this year, the Senate worked hard,” he added. “The committees that deal with these issues worked hard in getting it done and getting it passed.”

“It provides the framework for our law enforcement here to know what the parameters are for deadly force and having them in compliance – but also protecting them when they are using deadly force within those parameters,” Corlew said. “I think the standards have been in place because of constitutional law. But it’s important that our statutes also are in compliance.”

Other action toward the end of the legislative session

Day 4: Beer, fantasy sports bills go to governor; photo ID to the ballot; paycheck protection dies

Beer companies could lease portable refrigerators to grocers and convenience stores, which could also sell  refillable draft beer containers, known as growlers. 

Missouri Gaming Commission will get authority to license daily fantasy sports sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings. The state would collect roughly 21.5 percent of a daily fantasy site's annual income.

People would need a photo ID and the state would help the poor get the documents needed. A person with nonphoto identification would be allowed to vote if he or signed an affidavit attesting to their identity.

Missouri legislature adds restrictions on municipalities, changes tax sharing

This year’s bill would curb ordinance violations, such as tall weeds or housing code problems. It would also reduce the maximum traffic fine to $225 and would create a sliding scale for non-traffic fines. 

One step forward, one step back for anti-opioid legislation in Missouri

Early in the last week the General Assembly approved a measure that would let pharmacists sell naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote, without a prescription. But on Thursday, the Senate apparently killed a proposal that would set up a prescription drug monitoring database. Missouri is the only state that does not have one.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.