Court denies appeal of order blocking concealed guns law

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The state Supreme Court refused Monday to lift a preliminary injunction against Missouri's new concealed guns law, meaning the law will remain on hold for at least a little while longer.

A St. Louis Circuit Court judge on Friday blocked the law from taking effect Saturday, saying there were constitutional concerns that needed to be resolved.

The law -- enacted when the legislature overrode Gov. Bob Holden's veto last month -- would allow Missourians age 23 and older who pay $100 and pass criminal background checks and training courses to receive permits from their county sheriffs to carry concealed guns. It also would allow anyone age 21 or older to conceal a gun in a vehicle without need of a permit.

Opponents sued on claims that the law violated a Missouri Constitution provision dating to 1875 that guarantees the right to bear arms and adds, "but this shall not justify the wearing of concealed weapons."

The lawsuit also raised four other constitutional claims, which Judge Steven Ohmer denied while temporarily blocking the law. The judge set an Oct. 23 hearing to determine whether to impose a permanent injunction.

Attorney General Jay Nixon's office had appealed the preliminary injunction late Friday, but the Supreme Court did not act until Monday morning. The Supreme Court, in an unsigned and unanimous decision, said an appeal of the preliminary injunction was not allowed because state law already allows for an appeal if a permanent injunction is later issued.

The court's action Monday means the concealed guns law will remain on hold at least until next week's hearing.

But St. Louis attorney Burton Newman, who represents the 10 plaintiffs in the case, said he had asked Nixon's office to join him waiving the Oct. 23 hearing so an expedited appeal of the full case can be brought to the Supreme Court.

"The attorney general's office has indicated that they are interested in seeing this matter resolved as soon as possible," Newman said. However, "the attorney general's office has in fact engaged in acts which are delaying a final ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court."

Nixon said in a statement that the outcome of the Oct. 23 hearing would set the stage for a direct appeal, by whichever side loses, to the state Supreme Court.

"My office is doing everything we can to resolve this matter in order to bring certainty to law enforcement and those who are waiting to seek permits under this law," Nixon said in a statement.

Rep. Larry Crawford, the House sponsor of the concealed guns law, said he also was prepared for a circuit court hearing next week on the permanent injunction.

"That way, all the evidence will be reflected in the record," said Crawford, R-Centertown. "I still feel like we'll win the lawsuit on all count on the merits."

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