This weekend, the Kansas City Star, in partnership with The Missouri Independent and students at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, issued a new report detailing how years of gun lobby influence and the systematic dismantling of Missouri’s gun safety laws has exacerbated the state’s gun violence crisis. Missouri has some of the weakest gun laws in the country and the 5th highest rate of gun deaths in the U.S., with 1,222 people killed and 2,584 people wounded by guns in an average year.
Missouri lawmakers repealed the state’s background check law for all handgun sales in 2007, making it easier for individuals with dangerous histories to purchase guns without a background check or permit — according to the Star, the state’s firearms death rate had increased 58% by 2019. In 2016, state lawmakers passed permitless carry, despite objections from law enforcement, allowing people to carry hidden, loaded handguns in public without a background check or safety training. This past session, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed a dangerous new law to nullify federal public safety laws in Missouri by prohibiting and penalizing state and local law enforcement officers who attempt to assist in the enforcement of those laws. Parson has since admitted that the law needs to be revisited.
The piece details the myriad ways Missouri lawmakers have exacerbated gun violence in Missouri by gutting public safety laws and critical protections over the course of nearly fifteen years, despite widespread opposition from law enforcement, public safety advocates and gun owners from across the state:
Over the past two decades, Missouri lawmakers have carried out a long-term dismantling of virtually all of the state’s significant gun restrictions. That has left the state in the bottom five for the weakest gun laws in the country.
That has meant repealing permit and safety training requirements to buy guns and carry them concealed, and expanding legal safeguards for using deadly force in self-defense. […]
Since permit-to-purchase was removed in 2007, the state’s firearms death rate had increased 58% by 2019, according to a Star analysis of state firearms death figures[…]
“When there’s a process where you have to get a permit to purchase, that seems like it’s just a bureaucratic thing, what does that matter? But it turns out it matters more than any other gun law or any other public policy that I can think of,” said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.
Law enforcement, gun owners and people who taught permit training courses all testified in serious opposition to the permitless concealed carry bill, recalls Kristin Bowen, a gun safety advocate from Columbia and volunteer with Moms Demand Action.
“It was hard to watch our lawmakers sit and have to enact this bill under pressure from the NRA — who at the time was very involved — the gun lobbyists in our state, and the sort of extremist allies in the legislature to vote against law enforcement and public safety,” she said. “It was really distressing. It was very frustrating for me as an activist to see our local laws, our local law enforcement voices and our public safety experts being overlooked.”
The Kansas City Star also dug into how the NRA and other gun lobby organizations in the state served as a dangerous engine for the continued repeal of gun safety measures:
“Jolie Justus, a freshman senator from Kansas City in 2007, said she recognized what was going on: The Missouri General Assembly was carrying out a long-term strategy, orchestrated by the National Rifle Association, to take apart gun laws piece by piece, until there was virtually nothing left.” […]
Former lawmakers, advocates and experts on gun policy agree that Missouri was part of a larger, national NRA effort to politicize firearms ownership and push for looser gun regulations to expand Second Amendment rights. […]
Justus, a freshman Democrat from Kansas City, was adamantly against adding stand-your-ground language, allowing for anyone to use lethal force anywhere if they feel threatened, to a larger firearms bill — it’s a public safety risk that would lead to more gun deaths, she argued.
The NRA’s lobbyist had already tried to entice her with an “A” legislative grade in return for a yes vote. […]