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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Gun law won't have major affect

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Sam Thompson, an employee at Bo's Jewelry and Pawn, stocks the gun case with concealable firearms
(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
BENTON - A veto override enabling Missouri residents to carry concealed firearms won't change things as much as people may think.

In Missouri, permits were already required for pistols and it is a misdemeanor to obtain such a concealable firearm without the permit. The $5 permit also requires the signature of the seller or the lender of weapon.

The new law allows these concealable weapons to now be carried out of plain sight with the additional permit, but Scott County Sheriff Bill Ferrell doesn't anticipate any significant increase in the number of permitted guns in the county.

He predicted there will be some people who apply for the concealed weapon permit, but the cost involved will discourage many others. The concealed weapon permit will cost $100 and indications are the required eight-hour firearms course may cost an additional $100.

In 2002, the Scott County Sheriff's Department issued 373 weapon permits and 279 have been issued this year so far.

Guidelines in this version of the concealed weapon bill were such that Ferrell felt he could support it, but he doesn't expect to see the same sort of decrease in crime other states have reported after passing concealed weapon permit laws. He noted that crime was already on a downward trend in the county before veto-override.

Requirements for having concealable weapons have always been stringent, Ferrell said, and the rules for who will be able carry concealed weapons are "not a whole lot different that the statutes we have in existence now," Ferrell said.

Convicted felons, those with a history of mental illness, known violent offenders and known drug users are among those who are ineligible for both concealable weapons permits and concealed weapon permits. "There's still a lot of leeway to refuse someone that apparently is a threat to society," Ferrell said.

There will be some people applying to carry concealed guns "that would frighten the average citizen to know they have one," Ferrell said. "There will be some people who will be refused." Those refused may appeal, however.

Those who have a concealed weapon permit may keep guns in vehicles.

Even with permits, concealed weapon carriers will not be allowed to bring guns into jails or prison facilities, churches, schools, voting precincts, courts, government offices and facilities, "or any place of business that posts a sign saying 'no concealed weapons allowed,'" Ferrell said. Cities may also pass ordinances prohibiting concealed weapons.

If someone is found at any of these locations with a concealed weapon, they can then be asked to leave or remove the gun from the premises. Refusing to do so can result in a fine and suspension of their concealed weapon permit.

Before issuing either type of permit, the sheriff's department performs background checks not only on the person, but on the gun to make sure it is not lost, stolen, or used in a crime.

Among the additional requirements for the permit to carry concealed guns, applicants must have completed an eight-hour firearms training course and be at least age 23. "Those are the big ones," Ferrell said.

Sheriffs will approve instructors, but whether an instructor's approval will be honored statewide or will be specific to the counties they are approved in is still unclear. "It's very much a work in progress," Ferrell said.

Trainers will have the right and responsibility to refuse those who they believe don't have the mental or physical capacity to safely handle their firearms. "By law, instructors are not to issue a certificate of training (to these people)," Ferrell said. "They'll have some liability they'll have to cover."

Another question left unanswered by the legislators is: How many times can a person take and fail the firearms course?

An identification process is to be implemented by the Department of Revenue so a drivers license or identification card will show the person to be a permitted concealed weapon carrier.

The Department of Revenue has been given one year to get the identification system up and running. Until then, concealed weapon carriers must carry their permit with them.

Sheriffs around the state, however, have a much nearer deadline - the next 30 days -for establishing their process for issuing concealed gun permits.

"They really haven't given us much time," Ferrell said. Sheriffs aren't even sure they will have an official form available yet. "We hope to have applications by then."

Ferrell said he hopes for an combination application-permit that also will include the firearms course instructor's name.

"The Missouri Sheriffs Association is working with sheriffs statewide to come up with a uniform application," Ferrell said. The association is also looking at some of the other issues such as, What happens when a concealed weapon carrier crosses state lines in or out of Missouri? "It's one of the things that needs to be worked out," Ferrell said.

Ferrell said his staff is looking at making applications available over the Internet "to make it a little easier for the applicant and make it easier for us to look at it without a mad rush."

One of Ferrell's concerns with the new legislation is related to the required background checks for mental illness. "There's no central database for that," he said. "We have no way of verifying."

He recalled an incident several years ago in which an applicant for a concealable weapon permit had a history of mental illness that did not turn up on the background check. After being issued a permit, the person later committed a murder-suicide with the firearm.

The mentally ill can still legally purchase long guns, Ferrell noted, and criminals will still carry their weapons without any sort of permits. "This is not a cure all."

Ferrell said he personally doesn't carry gun on him. "I've just never felt it necessary," he said.