Amendment determines weapons law

The right to carry concealed weapons in Missouri has become a hot topic since September 2003 when the Missouri Assembly overruled Gov. Bob Holden’s veto of an amendment allowing persons over the age of 23 to gain a permit.

On Jan. 22, the Missouri Supreme Court heard the case of Alvin Brooks, et al. v. State of Missouri, Attorney General Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon, James Murphy, Bulls Eye, L.L.C. et. al.

Brooks was represented by attorneys Barton Newman, from St. Louis and Richard Miller, from Kansas City.

The attorneys argued the proposed bill violates Article 1, Section 23 of the Missouri Constitution where it states Missourians have the right to keep and bear arms to protect their person, property and home but that it does not “justify the wearing of concealed weapons.”

Newman and Miller also cited Thomas Gantt, delegate to the 1875 Missouri Constitutional Convention, who said wearing a concealed weapon was, “a practice which is fraught with the most incalculable evil.”

Brooks also argues the bill is in direct violation of the Hancock Amendment because it would create a general revenue tax not already approved by voters. Currently, the bill allows persons to obtain a concealed gun permit after passing a criminal background check, firearms training and paying a fee up to $100. If the bill were passed it would create more work for sheriff’s departments and would require funds to pay for the background checks and firearms training.

Deputy Chief of Staff Paul Wilson defended the state’s decision to pass the bill. The state argues the amendments do not “plainly and palpably affront” the part of the Missouri Constitution in question.

“In the State v. Shelby case of 1886, the court said the prohibition of concealed weapons in the 1st Article of the Missouri Constitution promoted personal security and was harmonious to the Missouri Constitution,” Wilson said. “The precedence is there, it has been on the books for 125 years.”

The state also made the argument that in the past few years there have been state mandated ordinances that have resulted in increased spending by sheriff’s departments.

“The sex offender registration in the last year, requiring them to be listed on the Internet,” Wilson said. “The sheriff in my home county did not even have a Web site and had to upgrade, having added expense, with no reimbursement from the state. The Hancock Amendment is a dangerous area to go into.”

The judges focused most of their questions on the Hancock Amendment and whether or not the bill was in violation of it. This promoted reporters to ask whether or not the plaintiff thinks the judges had already decided the bill was not in violation of the Missouri Constitution.

“Over the past few years the House has passed several bills that went against the Hancock Amendment,” said Rep. Steve Hunter (R-Joplin). “Looking at the right to carry concealed weapons, it just might be an issue of the Hancock Amendment.”