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Time May Be Deadly

May 08, 1998
By: Ann S. Kim
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - With just one week left in this year's legislative session, time has become the biggest obstacle for a measure to put the right to carry concealed weapons to a vote of the people.

The bill must win Senate approval by 6pm Friday. But it's in at the very bottom of the Senate's calendar of bills to be considered.

More than 30 bills are ahead of the concealed weapons bill and must be brought up before concealed weapons can be considered.

In addition, with no other bills behind it, there would be less pressure to stop a filibuster.

Proponents, however, maintain an optimistic stance on the bill's chances of survival.

"I think there's a real good chance we'll get to it," said the bill sponsor, Rep. Wayne Crump, D-Potosi. Crump also said that the Senate is able to move bills to another calendar and prioritize those.

"We're happy as clams," said Tim Oliver, lobbyist with gun-rights group Missouri Legislative Issues Council. MOLIC has been lobbying for concealed weapons for six years.

Oliver also pointed to the position of the anti-methampetamine bill on the calendar, three slots above the concealed weapons bill, to support his optimism. Because the anti-meth bill is a major legislative priority for this year's session, Oliver said he believes the Senate will move down the calendar quickly. He predicted the Senate would take the concealed weapons bill up for discussion Wednesday or Thursday.

This legislation has survived several roadblocks this session. Proponents of the bill were able to win the MOLIC's support -- even after it had initially vowed to fight the bill because of its referendum provision. MOLIC had opposed the referendum, arguing the right to carry firearms is fundamental and should not be subject to a vote. Gov. Mel Carnahan has promised to veto legislation that does not contain a referendum provision. The National Rifle Association quickly offered its support after the local gun groups switched their position.

Earlier this week, one of the strongest opponents of concealed weapons, Sen. Jet Banks, D-St. Louis, said he would not kill the bill with a filibuster. Banks said although he opposes concealed weapons, he supports sending the issue to the ballot.

Even if the Senate does not reach Crump's bill before next Friday, other vehicles for the issue exist. As time runs out, proponents can attempt to add their own measures as amendments to related bills further along in the legislative process. One such possible vehicle for the concealed weapons issue is a bill that would allow parole officers to carry badges and guns.

Crump said he does not think he will have to resort to such a measure.

"I'll probably try not to attach it to that," Crump said.