Washington Police Chief Ken Hahn has withdrawn his call for an ordinance making it illegal to openly carry firearms in the city limits.
Hahn recommended the ban to the city council last week during a committee meeting.
The police chief said he changed his mind after consulting with City Counselor Mark Piontek who said that a weapon would have to be readily capable of lethal use, meaning it has to be loaded, for a violation to occur.
“That would require our officers to check to see if a gun is loaded which they can’t do without probable cause,” Chief Hahn told The Missourian Tuesday.
“It’s a dead issue,” Hahn remarked. “Mark said that it couldn’t be enforced. It won’t be considered any more.”
Hahn told council members last week that he became concerned after a young man had been seen around town openly carrying a handgun in a holster in the last few weeks.
Police here had only one encounter with the man, but he is known to follow and videotape Franklin County deputies engaged in stops or other operations. He then edits and posts the videos on YouTube.
Last year, deputies approached the man after motorists reported that a suspect wearing a handgun was standing on the Highway 100 overpass at Gray Summit. The man was holding a sign and shouting at passing cars, according to reports.
Hahn stressed that safety was his sole reason for proposing the open carry ban in Washington.
“My concern was that if a citizen saw this guy with a gun strapped on and thought a crime was about to be committed, he might decide to take matters in his own hands,” Hahn said. “It was always a safety issue.
“I’m definitely pro gun and pro Second Amendment right,” the police chief said.
“We have an open and transparent government,” Hahn added. “That’s why we are able to have discussions like this.”
Hahn noted last week that there is no law against openly carrying a firearm unless a business or government building prohibits it and posts a sign indicating that.
While Missouri allows open carry of firearms, counties and municipalities are authorized to pass laws and ordinances restricting open carry.
The city of St. Louis and several surrounding municipalities have restricted the open carrying of firearms.
In January, state Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, filed legislation, Senate Bill 680, which would bar counties and other municipalities from restricting firearms in any way, including their “use, keeping, possession, bearing (and) transportation.”
His bill is currently in the Senate’s Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.