Missouri legislation seeks to allow guns in places of worship
Missouri Republicans are making a push to allow firearms to be carried inside religious establishments and lessen restrictions on access to firearms.
House Bill 485, heard in the House Emerging Issues Committee Wednesday evening, would override existing Missouri law that restricts the possession of a concealed carry firearm in places of worship without consent or knowledge of persons in charge.
Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, is sponsoring the bill, which he said the purpose of the bill is to ensure Missourians “constitutional right” to carry firearms when attending places of worship.
Private property rights would still stand, and if religious organizations want to not allow firearms in their spaces they may still choose to do so by posting signage outside, under the bill. Opponents questioned if that would put them at further risk.
William Bland spoke in support of the bill, stating that mass shootings in churches are real and would allow other concealed carry permit holders to strengthen the force against them.
“By granting permission, the church is exposed to liability in the event of a CCW permit holder is involved in an unfortunate event involving the firearm even if that action is justified,” Bland said. He said that removing the restriction of firearms would keep the church from being liable.
JT Young, a pastor at Concord Trinity United Methodist Church and also a member of Moms Demand Action, said that this bill would force guns inside of worship spaces.
“In addition to preaching and counseling and presiding over funerals and weddings, I would have to spend time developing active shooter plans,” Young said.
Another set of bills were also discussed that would disregard any federal statute that would enforce a red flag gun law, designed to have a court take weapons from someone considered to be dangerous.
Both House Bill 712 and House Bill 701 disallows any use of federal money to seize firearms in the event that a federal order comes down restricting firearm access. HB 712 Bill Sponsor Bill Hardwick, R-Waynesville, said that both bills are similar, but do have differences between them.
Students and staff from Central Visual and Performing Arts High School spoke against the three bills. On Oct. 24, 2022, a former student entered the building and began firing his AR-15 style rifle. Two individuals and the shooter were killed and seven others were injured.
Kristie Faulstich, teacher at CVPAHS and an Army veteran, started off her public testimony telling the committee that shooter Orlando Harris had told a staff member he was suicidal. Faulstich said that a red-flag law would have saved the lives of three people, including Harris.
Chloe Ong, senior at Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience, which shares a building with CVPAHS, was present at school the day of the shooting.
“Orlando Harris, if a red flag law would have existed, would not have had the gun that he used to commit these crimes,” Ong said.
Ron Calzone, from Missouri First, said that red-flag laws have the potential for guns to be taken away from women who are experiencing abuse.
“You will see red-flag laws weaponized against people,” Calzone said. He went on to say that if a woman who owns a firearm for protection, had their partner claim they were not fit to possess it, would lose their protection from their gun via a red flag law.
According to the bill summary, confiscating any firearm, firearm accessory or ammunition from law-abiding citizens is considered an infringement on the right to bear arms provided by the Second Amendment.
Red flag laws allow people to petition to a court to have an individual’s firearms confiscated from them if they pose a threat to themselves or others. Currently, there are no red- gun laws in place in Missouri. Moms Demand Action leader Kristin Bowen said these bills would make it difficult for Missouri to enact laws restricting gun access for those who are considered a danger to themselves and others.
Hardwick said anti-red flag laws are in place in order to ensure due process for Missouri citizens.
“Someone who hasn’t done anything wrong could have their rights taken away,” Hardwick said. He added he doesn’t think it is just protecting the Second Amendment, but also the First and Fourth Amendments.
“In so furiously protecting the Second Amendment, we are putting folks at risk,” responded Rep. Ashley Aune, D-Kansas City.
Earlier this month, a federal judge struck down a state law, passed in 2021 as House Bill 85, which fined officers who “knowingly enforce” federal bans on firearms $50,000. Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey promised an appeal.
This story originally appeared in the Columbia Missourian. It can be republished in print or online.