Bill would allow concealed guns in vehicles

Sunday, March 17, 2002

A glance at a U.S. map, like the one in Wednesday's Southeast Missourian, showing which states do and don't permit the carrying of concealed weapons is informative. All but six states allow concealed weapons. Most of them have fairly lenient laws, while a dozen of the states that allow citizens to carry handguns have more restrictive laws.

Legislative efforts in Missouri this year are aimed at allowing concealed weapons in vehicles and providing stiffer federal prosecution of gun violations. This legislation deserves full consideration.

Missouri is one of the six states that prohibit the carrying of firearms by private citizens. The other states with prohibitions -- all in the Midwest -- are Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohio.

If this map had been published in the early 1980s, it would have looked much different. At that time, at least 40 states prohibited concealed weapons. Slowly, organizations that advocate concealed weapons have worked diligently to persuade legislators and change laws. Now the terrorist attacks of last September have given the concealed-weapon effort some new momentum.

While groups like the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America are stepping up their efforts to further ease gun laws, other organizations like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence are working equally hard to impose more restrictions on concealed weapons.

The Missouri effort is a legislative response to a statewide vote on concealed weapons in 1999. In that vote, Missourians defeated a law to allow the carrying of handguns, thanks to heavy voting against the measure in St. Louis and Kansas City.

Now, instead of trying to push through the same broad law, legislators are concentrating on allowing guns in vehicles. In addition, sponsors of the measure have included the option of seeking federal charges when stiffer penalties are available for other gun violations. The sponsors hope this extra push to crack down on the misuse of firearms will make it easier to get support for allowing concealed weapons in vehicles.

But Gov. Bob Holden is standing firm on his pledge to veto any bill that gives Missourians in general the right to carry concealed weapons. He has consistently said he opposes any measure like the one rejected by voters. And last week a spokesman said the governor believes this latest effort is no better.

Meanwhile, House majority leader Wayne Crump of Potosi, Mo., pointed out that Missouri allows travelers from other states that allow concealed weapons to go through Missouri with their guns. "I think it's time" to give this right to "our own citizens," Crump said.

The proposed bill has a long way to go. If it has any chance at all of passage, it will be because Missourians speak up and let their legislators know they want the right to carry concealed weapons in their vehicles.

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