JEFFERSON CITY • For 17 seconds, Missouri House members stood in silence.
It was a day after the deaths of 17 students and teachers in Parkland, Fla., and the Feb. 15 remembrance was requested by Rep. Bruce Franks, D-St. Louis. Before the House fell quiet, Franks had delivered a speech that sucked the air out of the room, announcing he had decided to stop carrying his firearm.
“It might not affect your community like it affects my community,” Franks said. “But it’s all of our jobs to make sure Missouri is a safer place.”
In a cramped hearing room Monday, Missouri lawmakers heard and debated two very different visions of how to keep communities safe.
Measures proposed by Democrats sought to regulate firearm and ammunition sales. Republican proposals would expand the areas where people could carry guns, including in bars, amusement parks and college campuses. Each side said their legislation would make people safer.
Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa, said areas where guns aren’t permitted are susceptible to gun violence as long as residents are not allowed to carry protection.
“It allows individuals to stop an attack if the need does arise,” he said.
But Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis, said just the sight of firearms made her constituents feel unsafe.
“You live in a different part of Missouri than I live in,” said McCreery. “Just having men with loaded guns in Starbucks is enough.”
It wasn’t discussed at Monday’s hearing, but Franks introduced legislation Monday that would allow cities and counties to regulate firearms. The idea of local control of gun ownership faces significant resistance, including a proposal heard Monday that would explicitly ban cities from regulating firearms.
Cities shouldn’t “usurp an individual’s right to carry,” Taylor said.
Missouri has expanded gun rights in recent years, but, nationally, there’s broad support for stricter gun laws, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Feb. 20. Voters support background checks, for instance, 97 percent to 2 percent.
Taylor’s legislation to expand the locations where Missourians could carry — which he introduced last year as well — received the most attention Monday.
The legislation would allow Missourians to carry firearms without permits in a host of new places, including churches, city buses and bars. Under the proposal, it would be up to the owners of the private property whether guns would be allowed on their premises.
“I want to give the business owner that choice,” Taylor said.
For college campuses, people would need a permit. Guns already are allowed on campus in some capacity. At the University of Missouri, for example, students who live in dorms store their firearms in a locker at the campus police department, according to the Columbia Missourian.
Other Republican measures heard Monday included:
• Making it a felony to track firearms.
• Allowing gun owners to keep their firearms in their vehicles in parking garages and lots.
Democratic measures included:
• Banning the sale of ammunition to people under the age of 18.
•Repealing a 2016 law allowing Missourians to carry concealed firearms and to claim a “stand your ground” defense if they use deadly force in a public space without backing away from the threat — the so-called “duty to retreat.”
Last week, Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, introduced a measure that would require licensed gun sellers to provide the buyer with information that guns could “terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.” On the Senate floor, she called it a “pro-life” bill.
“All lives matter, student lives matter, teachers’ lives matter, coaches’ lives matter, law enforcement lives matter, white lives matter, brown lives matter, and Mr. President,” Nasheed said, addressing the lieutenant governor who manages the Senate, “black lives matter.”