Guns Returns to the Supreme Court
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Guns Returns to the Supreme Court

Date: November 3, 2015
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A case heard by the Missouri Supreme Court could determine if a constitutional amendment could grant felons the right to obtain conceal-and-carry permits for firearms.

The court heard three cases the prior week concerning whether non-violent felons could possess weapons under the voter-approved amendment.

The prosecution represents a man from Jefferson County who plead guilty to felony forgery in 1973.

William David Hill was sentenced to two years in prison and had his sentence suspended.

After successfully completing his probation period in 1975, he was issued a certificate indicating he had, "all the rights and privileges of citizenship."

Missouri later repealed the act that allowed Hill to obtain that certificate.

When Hill applied for a concealed weapon permit in March 2013, his application was denied because of his guilty plea to the felony charge.

Based off the 2014 amendment to the Missouri Constitution regarding citizens' rights to own firearms, Hill's lawyer is arguing that he should be granted a permit.

The court did not discuss a much broader issue Hill's lawyer had included in his written brief -- that the 2014 constitutional amendment granted a right to carry concealed weapons.

The amendment removed the phrase in the earlier provision in the Constitution that the right to bear arms did "not justify the wearing of concealed weapons."

"Logically, if inclusion of the phrase denied to a citizen a constitutional right to bear concealed firearms, then removal of the same phrase must now 'grant' to a citizen a constitutional right to bear concealed firearms," Hill wrote in his brief submitted to the state high court before oral arguments.

Article I, Section 23, therefore, now appears to declare the existence of a 'new' substantive constitutional right not previously permitted to the citizens of Missouri, to wit: the right to bear concealed firearms," he concluded.

However, Hill did not raise that argument in his oral arguments to the state Supreme Court nor was he questioned on that point by the judges.

In response to a related question, Jefferson County's attorney argued the county did not have a position on the law on concealed weapons in the aftermath of voter approval of the Constitutional Amendment that came after Hill had sought his concealed weapons permit.

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