In a 29-2 vote, the state Senate gave its backing to a proposed constitutional amendment on gun ownership.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, would put a proposal in front of voters to alter the language on Missouri's existing gun laws.
Missouri’s current amendment states that it is the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of their home, person and property. Schaefer’s bill would add “family” to that list, and remove a provision that exempts concealed carry weapons.
It also adds two sentences to the section: "The rights guaranteed by this section shall be unalienable. The state of Missouri shall be obligated to uphold these rights and shall under no circumstances decline to protect against their infringement."
The measure now goes to the House. If it passes there, it would go before voters in November 2014.
"It simply says elected officials in the state of Missouri don't get the option to be disengaged in this discussion," Schaefer said. "You have to be looking out for the rights of Missourians as enshrined in the Constitution."
In 1999, Columbia voters rejected a measure that would have allowed people older than 21 to carry concealed weapons, but Schaefer said he heard a different message this year from constituents in his district and across the state.
"That was 1999 and opinions change," Schaefer said. "I don't think you have to look any farther than, for example, the discussion of gay marriage right now."
Members of Congress are currently mulling several gun control proposals put forth by President Barack Obama. Schaefer said the proposal is meant to give consistent protection to gun owners no matter where the national gun debate goes.
"Today it's the issue of guns," Schaefer said. "Tomorrow its the issue of free speech. But one of the things I've seen is, with a few pieces of legislation introduced this session, is that some elected officials in Missouri that don't understand that."
In contrast to Schaefer’s measure, Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, has introduced legislation that would require parents who own firearms to register with their child's school.
Chappelle-Nadal initially supported Schaefer's bill, but voted against it because she said existing Second Amendment protections in the U.S. Constitution are good enough.
"I absolutely support the Second Amendment," Chappelle-Nadal said. "I just didn't realize when this bill was first presented that this was just a reiteration because there are some people upset with what the President is trying to do."
Though congressional gun control debates are now at a simmer, Schaefer said Missouri's General Assembly should not legislate based on the ebb and flow of the daily news.
"Things may have come down a little bit but that's exactly why we need this language in the constitution," Schaefer said. "So that there is a consistent protection and an understanding that its the obligation of Missouri's elected officials to uphold that right."
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