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For the fourth year, Missouri legislators are being asked to approve legislation allowing the state's citizens to carry concealed weapons, once minimal permit requirements have been met. There are two good reasons to support this idea.

-- Statistics support the concept that allowing the citizenry to arm itself against armed thugs, robbers and rapists results in less crime. Thirty-eight states permit concealed weapons with varying degrees of limits and rules. But one thing is consistent: Most of those states have lower crime rates than Missouri.

-- Many police chiefs, including Cape Girardeau's Howard Boyd Jr., support the idea, because they think it would be a deterrent. Not all police chiefs agree, however, but the arguments from those who see advantages in allowing responsible citizens to carry guns are convincing.

It is important to remember that it doesn't matter to criminals what laws are passed regarding firearms. This puts law-abiding folks at a disadvantage. Unable to carry weapons legally, average citizens are put in perilous and life-threatening situations every day. The experience in states where concealed weapons are allowed suggests that miscreants are less likely to be so bold in their criminal pursuits if they think their intended victims may be armed.

The police chief at Jackson, Marvin Sides, opposes the proposed legislation, and he earnestly argues that arming adults may be sending the message to children that "the way to resolve conflicts is through an armed confrontation." But supporters of the legislation argue that unarmed citizens are helpless when confronted by gun-wielding criminals. In effect, the argument continues, the rampant increase in crime is sending a signal to everyone that the criminals have the upper hand. This makes victims of law-abiding citizens who are afraid to leave their homes or automobiles unlocked, who stay off the streets at night, who fear large parking lots, who won't go anywhere without an escort, who refuse to give aid while traveling on highways and who fear answering a doorbell when a stranger is standing outside.

With a system for licensing Missourians to carry concealed weapons, the message to criminals would be simple: Not everyone who is an intended victim may be carrying a gun, but how can you tell?

Let your legislator know how you feel about the right to carry concealed weapons.