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Mo. lawmakers pass “stand your ground” and no-permit concealed carry bill at 11th hour

Example of concealed carry. Shot against a white background.

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers concluded their annual session Friday after sending Gov. Jay Nixon a bill that enacts a “stand-your-ground” right and expands gun rights to allow Missourians to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

Under the measure, most people could carry concealed guns, even if they haven’t gone through the training now required to get a permit. The legislation also expands the state’s “castle doctrine” by allowing invited guests such as baby sitters to use deadly force against intruders. And it would create a “stand-your-ground” right, meaning people would have no duty to retreat from danger in any place they are legally entitled to be present.

Republican supporters described it as a reasonable approach to personal safety, while many Democrats decried it.

“I’m overjoyed,” Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, said of the gun bill after the session ended.

For several years, Burlison has promoted legislation to allow state residents to carry a gun without a permit, as is now required under law.

Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa, called the legislation a “great bill,” even though an amendment he had added to it was stripped out by the Senate. That amendment would have allowed Missourians to carry concealed weapons on college campuses, which is currently prohibited.

The legislation passed the Republican-led Senate on a 24-8 party-line vote. The House then gave it final approval 114-36, with a little over an hour remaining before the session’s mandatory end. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk. If he vetoes the measure, Republicans in the legislature will have a chance to override the veto in September.

Nixon isn’t saying yet whether he’ll veto the gun-rights expansion. He said Friday that he will give the measure a comprehensive review.

“I don’t think we need ‘stand-your-ground’ laws or permit-less carry to be safe,” said Rep. Judy Morgan, D-Kansas City. “In fact, I think they make us less safe.”

The National Rifle Association 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.

Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law came under national scrutiny after neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman fatally shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012. Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges and, while “stand-your-ground” was not directly mentioned during his trial, the law was included in the jury instructions.

Several Missouri Democratic lawmakers cited Zimmerman’s case while raising concerns that the legislation could lead to a shoot-first mentality and dubious self-defense claims.

“It doesn’t make the state safer; it opens it up to murder,” said Democratic Rep. Brandon Ellington of Kansas City, chairman of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus.

Other black lawmakers said they feared it could make it more likely that black residents could get shot by people prejudiced against them.

Senators started the day late, passed only a few other bills besides the gun legislation, and then adjourned for about an hour and 45 minutes before the mandatory quitting time.

Lawmakers failed to pass several other prominent bills, including limits on lobbyist gifts, a transportation tax increase and additional abortion restrictions.

Other measures that passed before the final day include a proposed photo identification requirement for voters.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with Gov. Nixon’s response. 

This article was originally published at the News-Leader.