Missouri lawmakers are sharply divided over a sweeping new gun measure based on what part of the state they represent.
Predominantly Democratic legislators from urban areas are strongly opposed to the law while their rural Republican counterparts have warmly embraced it. According to some state lawmakers, a number of law enforcement agencies are also divided along the same lines.
Republican Senator Brian Munzlinger, who represents a rural district in northeast Missouri, claims authorities in his area have no problem with the gun measure. “My local sheriff said ‘We’re not going to go against you on that” said Munzlinger. “And when I actually visit, and I visited with the police chiefs association. I visited with a lot of them.”
Munzlinger introduced the legislation which allows people to carry concealed weapons without a permit and forego training.
Democratic Senator Gina Walsh says the new law is highly unpopular in her suburban St. Louis district. “I come from an area that overwhelmingly asked us not to have conceal and carry in this state. I don’t get very many emails on this issues supporting this bill. I get (an) overwhelming amount of emails that tell me that this is wrong for Missouri.”
Big city critics of the new gun law say it’ll intensify gun violence. Munzlinger contends this problem could be the result of a large number of jail sentences being suspended in urban areas. “There are a lot of differences between rural and urban, yes. But the issues with urban doesn’t really apply to this bill.” Munzlinger’s office says he heard from law enforcement officials in the state’s largest urban areas who complained about high rates of suspended sentences for infractions involving guns.
The Senate President Pro Tem, Republican Ron Richard, sighted Attorney General Chris Koster as the ultimate authority on what proper gun policy should be in Missouri.
“Frankly, the chief law enforcement officer of the state of Missouri, Chris Koster, said he would sign the bill” said Richard. “Now, he is the chief law enforcement officer. And yet every governor candidate, including him, said they’d sign the bill. Now to me that’s is a pretty good message that it was OK.” Koster, the Democratic candidate running for governor, has said he probably wouldn’t veto the gun bill as Governor Jay Nixon did.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James held a press conference Tuesday with his local sheriff and deputy police chief condemning the measure. Thursday, lawmakers overrode Nixon’s veto, ensuring the bill will become law.