After the tragic killing of 17 people at a school in Florida on Valentine’s Day, some lawmakers representing Franklin County in the state Legislature were asked if tougher gun laws should be considered, especially on the AR-15 rifles.
The lawmakers were asked the question in an open forum sponsored by the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce Friday.
“I don’t think so,” State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, said. “We’ve got plenty of laws on the books already, but they are not being enforced. People need to have the ability to defend themselves.”
The style of gun drawing the most criticism is currently the AR-15 (Armalite rifle) in conjunction with high-capacity magazines of 20 to 30 rounds.
These rifles are very similar to ones used by the military, but are semi-automatic, which means one bullet will fire each time the trigger is pulled and the rate of fire is dictated by how fast the user can pull the trigger.
State Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, shared Curtman’s view of the checks and balances already in place.
“First off, the AR-15 is not a military weapon and AR doesn’t stand for assault rifle,” he said. “All rifle and pistol purchases go through checks already.”
Alferman referenced the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) used by dealers with a federal firearms license (FFL) who are required by federal law to conduct an FBI background check on potential purchasers.
But, there are currently no state or federal laws that require private sellers to perform a background check before transferring a gun to a buyer. And private citizens do not have access to the NICS system.
These private sales, referred to as “gun show loopholes,” can be done face to face and many are done online.
Private sellers can use an FFL as a third party in the transaction, so a background check can be performed. The FFL generally charges a fee for this service.
Alferman said the loophole argument is overblown since private gun sales make up such a small proportion of the total gun sales in the state.
“It is sort of a lie to say background checks aren’t being done,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to have a background check to pass a gun down from father to son.”
State Rep. Nate Tate, R-St. Clair, was the only lawmaker not to balk at the increase in background checks, but neither did he speak against them.
“I think we need more funding for mental health,” Tate said.
The microphone was then handed to State Sen. Dave Schatz, who said more focus needs to be put on social issues.
On Jan. 1, 2017, Missouri became the 11th state in the country to pass Constitutional Carry, which allows residents to carry a concealed firearm without advanced training, law enforcement background checks or a permit.
The bill passed after Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto was overridden by the Republican super majorities in the state Legislature.
A portion of a lifetime concealed carry bill sponsored by Schatz was folded into the constitutional carry bill.
The bill passed the Senate unanimously and was supported in the House along party lines, including Alferman and Curtman.
The passage of the bill also took away the power of local sheriffs to deny conceal carry permits to individuals they deemed unfit to carry a gun.
Although gun purchase laws fall under the federal umbrella, the state of Missouri itself has some of the least strict laws on gun ownership and use.
Here is a list of gun regulations the state does not require:
• Gun owners to obtain a license, register their firearms, or report lost or stolen firearms;
• Limit the number of firearms that may be purchased at one time;
• Impose a waiting period on firearm purchases;
• Regulate unsafe handguns (“junk guns” or “Saturday night specials”);
• Significantly regulate ammunition;
• Allow local governments to regulate firearms; or
• Give local law enforcement discretion to deny a concealed carry permit.