The state Supreme Court has again heard arguments about whether the gun rights amendment approved by voters last year would allow some felons to possess firearms.
Arguments in three cases were heard this morning in which the state is appealing the dismissals by lower courts of gun possession charges against three men. They argued the law against felons having guns is not constitutional after voters approved Amendment 5 last year, making the right to have guns unalienable in Missouri.
David Roland with the Freedom Center of Missouri argues the language in the amendment means only violent felons should be denied guns.
“What it means is that the government bears the burden of proving that the person at issue committed a violent crime,” said Roland. “That should not be difficult. It’s the kind of a factual determination that courts make all the time, in various settings.”
Assistant Circuit Attorney Aaron Levinson said the legislature, in creating the amendment language, wasn’t asking voters to keep only violent felons from having guns.
“That same majority that brought forth this amendment could have changed the felon in possession law. They could have removed the language prohibiting all convicted felons from possessing firearms. They could have chosen to define, ‘violent.’ They could have listed offenses which would prohibit someone from having firearms. They did not do so. They chose to leave the statute as it was,” said Levinson.
The Court already ruled in another case that Missouri’s current law is constitutional, and St. Louis Assistant Circuit Attorney Veronica Harwin says the court got it right.
“The Court should continue to follow those precedents and find that the current law is constitutional and I don’t believe it needs to be rewritten,” said Harwin.
Roland says in that earlier ruling, the Court wasn’t given a thorough enough argument.
“No one who was part of the case really wanted to see it get its fullest extent, and so the Court was handcuffed,” said Roland. “They did not have all the information or the arguments. No one reminded them – you’ve got 60 years’ worth of cases explaining how you’re supposed to analyze a constitutional provision.”
Amendment 5 was sponsored in the legislature by state senator and candidate for Attorney General, Kurt Schaefer. He says it does not allow felons to have guns, nor is it intended to.
The Court could make a decision at any time.