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Concealed weapons would be allowed in public buildings in Missouri under proposal

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JEFFERSON CITY • Concealed weapons could be allowed on college campuses, churches, childcare facilities, polling places and private businesses if one Missouri House measure gains traction.

A proposal by Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa, loosens conceal carry language established in 2017 by opening up many public institutions that currently ban guns, including universities and government buildings. Private businesses, which now have to give permission to those wishing to conceal carry would instead default to allowing the weapons unless otherwise indicated.

During Taylor’s third time presenting the legislation Wednesday, he said the changes would allow people to protect themselves in taxpayer-owned buildings.

“The intent is to make sure that people can defend themselves in a vast variety of situations where currently they can’t,” Taylor said.

The proposal ignited an overflowing Capitol hearing room with debate regarding whether allowing guns in public entities would make spaces more or less safe.

Proponents say when mass shootings and violent situations occur, it would be more effective to have armed Missourians on site for protection, referencing slow police response time data.

They also said college students facing sexual assault could be better protected if they were permitted to carry a concealed weapon.

University representatives, including campus police officers, argued that guns would make campuses less safe. Paul Wagner, executive director of the Council on Public Higher Education, along with several other university representatives, testified in opposition of the bill, pointing to language that, in part, removes universities' power to write their own weapons policies.

“This is a local-control state," Wagner said. "That’s the political culture here and that’s why we have local boards in charge of our higher education institutions. We believe that is the best place for this decision to be made.”

Missy Kelley, the chief executive of Downtown STL, said crime has gone up and downtown businesses have suffered since the 2017 concealed carry laws were enacted. Austin Walker, from the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce, echoed concerns about the proposal’s potentially negative financial impact on local institutions, such as the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“We don’t want folks second guessing whether to send their kids to UMSL,” Walker said. "We certainly don’t want people second-guessing whether to attend a concert in St. Louis.”

“We represent a major metro area. We’ve got all the problems of a major metro area and while we want to be respectful of people’s rights, this is a bill that we believe is going to be harmful to our economic future,” Walker said.

Representatives from the National Rifle Association and Missouri Firearms Coalition urged the committee to pass the bill and eliminate “arbitrary gun-free zones.” When faced with questions regarding mass shootings, the 2nd Amendment advocates said that many shootings occurred in areas where concealed weapons were prohibited, making victims a defenseless target.

Taylor also said mass shootings are committed by criminals. The representative said those who decide to carry concealed weapons are “more law-abiding than law enforcement officers.”

Two other proposals in the House and one in the Senate would specifically allow concealed weapons on public transportation, including the Metrolink and city buses.

The legislation is House Bill 258.

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