Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke always has been a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights.
However, Toelke said he has reservations and some concerns with a new gun rights bill passed in the last session of the Missouri General Assembly.
The bill won’t become law until it is signed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon who said he is studying it.
A key part of the measure, commonly called “constitutional carry,” gives all citizens the right to carry concealed weapons even without the special training required to obtain a concealed carry permit now in Missouri.
The proposed law also would enhance the state’s Castle Doctrine, allowing invited guests to a home to use deadly force against intruders, and create a “stand-your-ground” right, meaning people would not have the duty to retreat from danger in any place they are legally entitled to be.
“I’ve always been pro-Second Amendment,” Toelke said this week. “I supported the original conceal carry law. I didn’t think we’d have any problems with it and we haven’t.
“I do have concerns with this new bill,” he remarked, noting that the measure, at 40-plus pages, is very “involved.”
The sheriff said one concern is that the proposed law eliminates the training requirement for people carrying concealed weapons.
Another is that the new measure would remove protections for law enforcement that are in place under the current law.
He noted that now, if a person pleads guilty to a felony charge and is given a suspended imposition of sentence (s.i.s.), he or she won’t have a conviction on their record after they complete a term of probation. However, the felony remains on their record for law enforcement purposes, and bars them from holding a conceal carry permit.
Also, there are cases when a person may have been arrested multiple times for violent crimes but never received a felony conviction, for various reasons, like a victim refusing to cooperate with investigators.
Under the current law, Toelke said he can refuse to issue conceal carry permits in those cases, based on a person’s arrest history. The person can appeal the refusal to court.
“But I’ve never lost one of those cases on appeal,” Toelke remarked.
“These things have been somewhat of a protection under the current law,” Toelke explained.
He said by his “interpretation,” under the constitutional carry provision, those people who could be barred from getting a conceal carry permit in the past now will be able to legally carry a concealed weapon.
“I didn’t think the original conceal carry law would be a problem. And it hasn’t been,” Toelke said.
“I think constitutional carry has the potential for problems,” he stated.
“That’s because it will allow certain people to carry guns that I could prevent (from conceal carry) before,” Toelke added.
The new measure also expands the time limits for renewal conceal carry permits, he noted.
Now, a holder of a conceal carry permit must renew it, for a fee, every five years.
The new measure provides for a five-year, 10-year and lifetime renewals.
Toelke said a person with a lifetime permit could get in trouble in another county and, in many cases, “we won’t know about it.”
Ten other states already have what supporters describe as “constitutional carry” allowing concealed guns without permits, including legislation enacted this year in Idaho, Mississippi and West Virginia, according to the National Rifle Association, the Associated Press reported.
The NRA says 30 states have laws or court precedents stating people have no duty to retreat from a threat anywhere they are lawfully present. But Missouri’s measure would make it the first new “stand-your-ground” state since 2011, according to both the NRA and the opposition group Everytown for Gun Safety, according to the AP report.
The legislation passed the Senate on a 24-8 party-line vote. The House then gave it final approval 114-36.