State Supreme Court denies appeal of ruling in concealed-gun case

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The state Supreme Court declined Tuesday to hear a case on whether people must answer background questions to qualify for concealed-gun permits.

In May, a three-judge Missouri Court of Appeals panel ruled that Paul Heidbrink -- and any other applicant for a permit to carry a concealed weapon -- has an obligation to answer the issuing sheriff department's questions about past crimes or military service.

The appeals court rejected a judge's ruling that Heidbrink did not have to answer questions about his background, ruling that the right to bear arms in Missouri isn't absolute.

The Supreme Court's action Tuesday essentially upholds the appeals court decision. That court sent the case back to St. Charles County Circuit Judge Ted House, saying House erroneously precluded the sheriff from inquiring into Heidbrink's criminal convictions and military discharge.

No further action had been taken in the case while the appeal to the Supreme Court was pending.

Tuesday, Heidbrink's attorney, Peter Bender, of Springfield, said he was disappointed in the decision but noted the case isn't over yet because House must still issue a new ruling.

St. Charles County Counselor Joann Leykam called the court's action "the right result."

"Those are legitimate concerns of the government," she said. "If he's entitled to [a concealed-guns permit] once he cooperates, then he'll get it."

Presiding Judge Lawrence Mooney said in the appeals court opinion that the right to bear arms in Missouri is "neither absolute nor unconditional."

Missouri lawmakers have "the authority to regulate the time, place and manner of bearing firearms," Mooney wrote. The judge said any applicant able to refuse to answer questions could force the permit-issuing agencies to unreasonably pore over court, police and mental health records nationwide.

Under Missouri law, an applicant may be disqualified from obtaining concealed-gun permits for various reasons, including certain criminal convictions or a discharge "under dishonorable conditions" from the U.S. military.

In applying for a permit in March 2003, the appeals court found, Heidbrink conceded that he had received a negotiated bad-conduct discharge from the Navy but denied any felony convictions. Heidbrink insisted that although he was ineligible for veterans benefits, he had not been discharged "under dishonorable conditions."

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