Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said he welcomes a change in the process of issuing concealed carry gun permits.
Currently, county sheriffs’ offices review permit applications and issue paper permits to persons who meet the qualifications, but the applicant then takes the permit to a license office to obtain a photo ID card noting their concealed-carry endorsement.
However, under a Missouri House bill that won first-round approval this week, the Missouri Department of Revenue would be removed from the process of printing licenses to carry concealed weapons following concerns over new driver’s license procedures.
The bill, which requires another House vote before moving to the Senate, calls for giving the responsibility for printing the conceal/carry permit card to county sheriffs. The Senate previously approved a bill making sheriffs responsible for that.
“I’d rather see the sheriffs in control of that,” Toelke said this week after learning of the bill.
He said when the conceal/carry law was first discussed, the sheriffs wanted control of the entire process but that was not pursued either because of a a statutory restriction or because it would have resulted in an unfunded mandate by the Legislature.
The Missouri Sheriff’s Association has indicated it is willing to take over the responsibility for printing permits if the Legislature provides some funding. The Senate answered that request and passed a budget bill Monday night that would give $2 million to a sheriffs’ task force to fund grants to issue the licenses, according to the Associated Press.
The conceal/carry permit issue came to light after the revenue department began a new process last December that requires local license office clerks to scan documents, such as birth certificates and concealed weapons permits, into a state computer system. That process has angered Republicans who say it is an invasion of privacy. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon announced earlier this month that the Revenue Department would stop scanning the weapons permits.
Sheriff Toelke said he would like to see sheriffs have the responsibility of conducting background checks on applicants, which now are handled by the highway patrol and the FBI.
That’s because local sheriffs are better informed about some applicants who may have a history of being in trouble with the law but never have been convicted of a crime.
There currently is a provision in the law that allows a sheriff to deny a permit to such a person.
“They may not be a convicted felon, but we would be aware of how often he or she has been in trouble,” Toelke said.
He said that he has refused one or two permits on that basis since the conceal/carry law was passed.
The House this week also adopted an amendment by Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Washington, that would eliminate the renewal process for concealed weapons permits. Missouri law currently allows concealed guns to be carried by people age 21 and older who haven’t been convicted of a felony or deemed mentally incompetent, and who pass a firearms training course and background check. But people qualifying for those permits must pay a fee every three years to renew them.
“I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t see the benefit,” said Schatz, R-Washington, about the renewal process.
A few Democrats raised concerns that eliminating the renewal would allow convicted felons to continue using a valid permit if they commit their crime after obtaining the concealed weapons license. But Schatz said that isn’t a “big enough deterrent” to continue the renewal process. He added that felons with a concealed weapon after being convicted would be guilty of a crime since state law doesn’t allow them to carry weapons.