Jackson County taking applications for concealed weapon permits

Friday, January 21, 2005

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Jackson County will begin accepting applications next month for permits to carry concealed guns, leaving just St. Louis County and city as the only places in the state where they are unavailable.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in February that the county -- home to a large part of Kansas City -- did not have to issue the permits because the $100 fee did not directly cover the cost of processing the applications. That made the law allowing concealed-carry an unfunded, and therefore unconstitutional, mandate, the court said.

St. Louis County won a similar ruling from a lower court. St. Louis city has simply refused to issue permits.

The state law -- adopted when legislators overrode Gov. Bob Holden's veto in September 2003 -- allows most Missourians age 23 and older to receive concealed weapons permits from their county sheriffs after passing criminal background checks, a firearms training course and paying a fee.

On Thursday, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office said in a statement it had received $48,000 from the county legislature to cover overtime costs of issuing the permits and would begin taking applications on Feb. 7.

A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office said that officials still feel the program is an unfunded mandate.

"But it's the sheriff's perspective that we have the money and so we'll do the permits until it runs out and then we can approach the state for money again," said Deputy Ronda Montgomery. "If there still is no money we might have to stop issuing them."

Richard Miller, a Kansas City attorney who has litigation to stop the law pending in Moniteau County, said he though Jackson County residents could successfully sue the county for using local dollars to provide the permits.

"While they're bowing to political pressure, they're violating the Missouri Constitution to do so," he said.

In October 2003, a representative for the sheriff's office testified that Jackson County had asked state officials for $150,000 and wanted to hire four additional officers to process the applications.

Montgomery said Thursday the county is not getting any new staff and is waiting to see how heavy the initial rush of applications will be.

"We're asking the public to be patient," she said.

It's not known if there will be a rush. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said it received less than 20,000 requests last year from county sheriffs for background checks on permit applicants, not the 60,000 the patrol had expected.

Kevin Jamison, a Kansas City attorney and president of Missourians for Personal Safety, said many Jackson County residents already got permits by going out-of-state to places like Utah and Florida. Still, he said there are benefits to having a concealed weapon permit from your home state.

"It's preferable that the sheriff is in the vetting process in issuing these permits," Jamison said. "It keeps the money in the state."

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