The successful override of Governor Jay Nixon’s veto for Bill 656 submitted by Senator Will Karus (D) has many gun owners and second amendment activists happy with the changes to the concealed carry laws that Missouri Senate Bill 656 enacts. It has been a long fought battle between both the Republicans and Democrats that has public opinion polarized.
Some of the biggest changes the bill enacts is that it authorizes volunteers in public school to become School Protection Officers.
“SB 656 actually strengthens accountability for guns in classrooms,” Sen. Will Kraus, the sponsor of the bill said in regards to the bill's passing. “Current law allows school districts to waive a ban on concealed carry in schools for individuals, and at least one district has done so. Now, any teacher designated a School Protection Officer (SPO) will need to undergo 12 hours of training, and twelve additional hours annually. Each school district will decide whether to use SPOs or not.”
It also allows Missourians possessing a valid Concealed Carry permit to utilize open carry in any part of the state no matter the local ordinances.
SB656 also changes other aspects of the state’s firearms law, was also lowering the age for a permit from twenty-one to nineteen and forbids any law that would allow medical personnel to ask if there is a gun in the household and responding to any answer to that question.
Though there is concern among some organizations at the thought of the state allowing teenagers to open carry firearms, many believe the problem to be more hyperbole than an actual issue. The state Senate and Congress overrode Governor Nixon felt the law took everything in to consideration as the House vote was one hundred and seventeen to thirty-nine and the Senate twenty-three to eight.
“I think it is great that other states are doing what is right, which is to protect kids, rather than doing what is politically correct,” Rep. Rick Brattin (R) said in regards to the bill.
“When you are going through that level of training, you shouldn’t be shooting yourself in the foot. We can’t legislate ‘what if’s in every scenario, but I look at it as [these teachers] are receiving the same level of firearms training as a police officer. How many police officers do you hear of shooting themselves in the foot?” Brattin also said in regards to the type of training the SPOs would be getting.
One of the largest concerns about the new law though is not the changes to the concealed carry permit itself, but to the School Protection Officer position. The law allowed the school to keep the identity of the person who is acting as the SPO from being released to the parents and some parents do not like the idea not knowing who will be the one armed in the school.
Melissa Brooks, a member of the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action group, said in an interview, “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."
In the end, the Missouri law is a step towards not only re-affirming the states belief in the second amendment, but also showing solidarity towards that goal by writing and passing legislation to support the constitutional amendment.
The last test of this law will be if anyone attempts to challenge the law through the Missouri courts, but so far there has been no indication of any such activity. If the law does face the courts and survives, it will show not only the dedication of the Missouri government in protection second amendment freedoms, but also give a precedence for other second amendment states to move ahead with their legislation.