Gun rights, voting restrictions up for overrides in Missouri

JEFFERON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature was poised to significantly relax the state’s gun laws and tighten its voting requirements as it prepared to convene Wednesday for a short session devoted to overriding vetoes made by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

The sweeping guns legislation would allow most adults to carry concealed weapons without needing a permit while also expanding people’s right to defend themselves both in public and private places. The elections law change would require people to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls, if voters also approve a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot.  

Both measures passed earlier this year with enough support for lawmakers to overturn Nixon if they stick to their original votes. A veto override requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber — 109 House votes and 23 Senate votes. Republicans control 114 House seats and 24 Senate seats.

The Republican supermajorities mean lawmakers have a good shot of adding to Nixon’s record as the most overridden governor in Missouri history, a distinction made possible by an era of extreme political division in the Capitol. Heading into Wednesday, lawmakers had overridden Nixon on 83 bills and budget expenditures over his two terms in office — four times more overrides than the combined total for all other governors dating back to 1820 when Missouri was still a territory.

Nixon vetoed more than 20 measures this year, including ones already overridden this spring blocking pay raises for home-care workers and changing the state’s school funding requirements. If they override his veto of the gun legislation, Missouri would join 10 other states with laws that allow most people to carry concealed guns even if they haven’t gone through the training required for permits, according to the National Rifle Association.

The measure would allow people to carry hidden guns anywhere they can currently carry weapons openly. People who choose to still get a concealed-carry permit could potentially carry their weapons into places off-limits to others and could take them to states with reciprocal agreements.

The legislation also would create a “stand-your-ground” right, meaning people don’t have duty to retreat from danger any place they are legally entitled to be present. 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.

It also would expand the “castle doctrine” by allowing invited guests such as baby sitters to use deadly force if confronted in homes. The Missouri Police Chiefs Association and Missouri Fraternal Order of Police have criticized the proposal, and Kansas City Mayor Sly James has said it “endangers both our community and our law enforcement.”

The NRA has led the effort in support of the bill. It’s been running a statewide digital ad encouraging viewers to call their area lawmakers and urge them to override Nixon, who is described as “blocking legislation guaranteeing your right to defend yourself.”

Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund has been running digital ads in opposition to the bill, as well as ads in newspapers and mailers to voters in some Republican senators’ districts. Also closely watched is a vetoed bill that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls, with some exceptions. The requirements wouldn’t take effect unless voters approve a proposed constitutional amendment, which is needed because the Missouri Supreme Court previously struck down similar requirements as unconstitutional.

In a letter explaining his veto, Nixon said the measure would “disproportionately” impact senior citizens, people with disabilities and others who have been lawfully voting but don’t have the government-issued photo ID required under the bill.

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