Editorial | Conceal-and-carry law doesn’t need changes

Common sense and the need to support our law-enforcement community are reasons legislators need to sustain Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a bill loosening the state's gun laws. The bill, among other changes, would remove the requirement to obtain a permit and training in order to carry a concealed firearm.

Under current law, a person commits the offense of unlawful use of weapons if he or she carries a concealed knife, firearm, blackjack, or another weapon readily capable of lethal use without a permit issued by the sheriff of a county. This act also provides that the crime is committed if a person carries a weapon in an area in which a person with a concealed carry permit is restricted from carrying firearms.

SB 656 decriminalizes the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit and lowers the penalty for carrying in a restricted area from a class D felony to a class B misdemeanor.

Not so fast, say the bishops of our state in a statement sent to legislators. "We, the Catholic bishops of Missouri, urge the Missouri General Assembly to sustain Gov. Nixon's veto of SB 656," the four bishops wrote. "Amending our current statutes to allow concealed carry without a permit is a move in the wrong direction, and we believe it would be detrimental to public safety and the common good."

Proponents of the bill argue that people with criminal intent already carry concealed weapons without a permit. But that's the point — they can be arrested and charged with a felony for that. It's a tool to help keep guns out of the hands of people who aren't qualified to carry them.

Missouri's concealed carry law currently requires at least eight hours of formal training. This training must include instruction in the loading, cleaning, storing, and discharging of firearms, as well as instruction in when it is lawful and appropriate to use lethal force.

Here's the common-sense argument that the bishops make:

"We are not persuaded that this change will make us safer, or that it is in any way necessary. On the contrary, we think that doing away with the training requirement would undermine public safety and potentially put law enforcement at risk. This is especially true in light of the expansion of the 'Castle Doctrine' in SB 656 which would allow a person in certain circumstances to use lethal force in 'any location such person has a right to be.'"

In response to the statement, St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson tweeted "Thanks Catholic Bishops of Missouri for speaking out on this important issue. #SB656"

Missouri's current statute outlines a reasonable and prudent process that ensures those obtaining a permit to carry a concealed weapon are trained and help them understand know when, and under what circumstances, they can lawfully use that weapon in self defense. The current law is consistent with Church teaching, which says that "those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility."

Such authority requires responsible ownership of and training with lethal firearms; SB656 would eliminate those requirements. That's not good for Missouri. 

To view the statement made by the Catholic bishops of Missouri, click here.

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