State senator leaves Cuba to cast critical vote on guns

Friday, September 12, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Republican Sen. Jon Dolan was granted a last-minute request for military leave from Cuba, then cast the deciding vote Thursday in favor of overriding a veto of concealed weapons legislation.

Dolan, a public affairs officer with the Army National Guard, was granted leave from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, late Wednesday and returned to Missouri in time to vote against Democratic Gov. Bob Holden's veto.

"Isn't it better that I am before you today able to return from active military duty to represent my constituents," Dolan, of Lake Saint Louis, said before the bill received the minimum 23 votes needed for an override. Ten senators voted to sustain the veto.

Dolan said he personally paid for the flights from Cuba and followed all proper military procedures.

"I didn't bend one rule in this case," Dolan said. "One colonel, my boss, and her boss had to approve a simple Department of the Army form."

Lt. Cmdr. Barbara Burfeind, a Pentagon public affairs officer responsible for issues related to Guantanamo Bay, said she was unaware of the matter. Members of Missouri's congressional delegation said through spokesmen that nothing was done to aid Dolan.

The gun bill will allow Missourians 23 and older to apply to their county sheriffs for a permit to carry concealed guns. Applicants must meet several qualifications, and concealed weapons will still be banned from churches, day care centers and certain other locales.

Missouri is now the 45th state to allow concealed guns in some fashion, although nine sharply restrict permits, according to the National Rifle Association.

Whether Dolan would be allowed to leave Cuba was a key question in the days leading up to the Senate vote.

The 23 senators who voted for the bill during the regular session included Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, who actually opposed the measure but voted for it as part of a failed maneuver to try to reconsider its passage.

Since Jacob voted to uphold the veto, proponents of the concealed guns measure hoped that Republican Sen. Michael Gibbons of Kirkwood would switch his original "no" vote to a "yes" and that veteran Democratic Sen. James Mathewson would again vote in favor of an override.

Both Mathewson and Gibbons voted for the legislation, making Dolan's the deciding vote.

Mary Still, Holden's spokeswoman, said the governor had "not focused a lot of attention on Dolan's return. He knows he's back and he's surprised he was back. There's nothing he could do about it."

Concealed guns bill is HB349

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