JEFFERSON CITY • Missourians who want a permit to legally carry guns in public could soon have the option of getting one that lasts a lifetime.
Moreover, if they don’t want to carry in other states, they might not need a permit at all.
As part of a major overhaul of state firearms laws approved by lawmakers last month, gun owners would be able to apply for a concealed carry permit that eliminates the need to renew every five years. And permitless carry would allow a gun owner to carry a concealed gun wherever open carry is allowed, making a concealed-carry permit unnecessary within Missouri.
Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, said the lifetime permit was proposed as a way to give people an alternative to renewing every five years.
“We thought it could be an option for gun owners to help them avoid the time and the expense,” Schatz said.
The permitless carry idea was added later. He said getting a permit would allow people to say they have been trained in firearms usage and it will allow them to carry in more places than those allowed by permitless carrying.
The lifetime permit idea mirrors similar programs approved in recent years in Indiana, Tennessee and Louisiana.
Under the proposal on Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk, a lifetime concealed carry permit would cost $500. The bill also offers Missouri residents 10-year and 25-year permits at a cost of $200 and $250, respectively.
It is part of a Republican-sponsored package of legislation that would establish Missouri as a “stand your ground” and permitless carry state.
The measure expands on Missouri’s current “castle doctrine” laws, which allows Missourians to use deadly force to protect their homes. The proposal would take away a person’s duty to retreat before using deadly force, no matter where the person is.
The architect of the changes said the proposal would ensure that residents could exercise their constitutional right to carry guns.
“This is an important change that will strengthen the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Missourians,” said Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield.
Nixon signaled that the package would be closely scrutinized.
“I’m going to have to look at this and balance what I believe is right for Missouri and the right to bear arms with the other issues involved,” Nixon told reporters after lawmakers adjourned May 13. “This is a significant shift in this area to give people the lawful right to carry.”
It is not clear how much of a draw the lifetime permit would be for Missouri firearms owners.
If the experience of Louisiana is any guide, about 6 percent of the state’s current concealed weapon permit holders could switch to the lifetime permit.
According to the Louisiana State Police, there are 90,164 valid five-year concealed handgun permits in the state. On top of that, there are 5,399 valid lifetime permits.
Indiana had 661,364 active handgun permits as of Dec. 31, 2015. Of those, 660,037 were lifetime permits. While Missouri’s lifetime license would be $500, the price tag in Indiana is just $75.
Indiana State Police spokesman Dave Bursten said people who were older typically didn’t get lifetime permits.
“They are pragmatic. They get the four-year license,” Bursten said.
Those under the age of 60, Bursten said, see the lifetime permit as an option because once a person has renewed a four-year permit three times, they would exceed the cost of a lifetime permit.
Tennessee also is launching a lifetime permit program.
The National Rifle Association, which helped lobby for the change, is pleased with the move in Missouri.
“A lifetime carry permit holds the same rights and restrictions as any regular carry permit, the only difference is that the lifetime version means a lot less paperwork for the law-abiding gun owner. Other states have similar allowances without any issues so this provision shouldn’t give Governor Nixon any pause when signing the bill,” NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide said in a statement.
It is unclear how many concealed carry permits exist in Missouri. Before 2013, Missouri had an estimated 142,000 concealed carry permits, according to figures compiled by the Missouri Department of Revenue.
Now, however, the process is controlled by the state’s 114 county sheriffs. The change followed criticism in 2013 after Revenue Department officials allegedly shared concealed carry information with the federal government.
During debate in the House and Senate this spring, critics said the lifetime permit wouldn’t sufficiently guard against someone who broke the law and should no longer hold a concealed carry permit.
Supporters said that when a person was charged with a felony, he or she was supposed to give up the permit until found not guilty. Permits should be permanently revoked if the holders were convicted.
Similarly, supporters said changes in a permit holder’s mental health would be handled the same way for a five-year permit.
Although some police groups sounded alarm bells about the “stand your ground” and permitless carry provisions of the overall legislation, the lifetime permit was not a major concern.
“We were mute on that. It was really not an issue,” Missouri Sheriff’s Association Executive Diector Mick Covington said.
The legislation is Senate Bill 656.