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Standing room only to hear gun bill hearings

Mitchell Craig-Meyer (left) of St. Louis finds a place to sit underneath a television tripod as he attends hearings on gun bills alongside Christie Daly of Tower Grove South and Sue King (right) of Columbia inside a packed committee room at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. A large contingent of people from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America attended the hearings. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY • Gov. Mike Parson’s administration is poised to make it official: Visitors can bring guns into the Missouri Capitol if they have a concealed carry permit.

Nearly two years after Parson’s predecessor, Eric Greitens, temporarily barred most visitors and employees from bringing concealed firearms into the Capitol, Parson’s administration has proposed a rule change that would make it clear that guns are allowed, as long as they are not brought into the House or Senate chambers or into committee meetings.

The issue has been in limbo since the 2017 transition from former Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, to Greitens, a Republican.

Soon after taking office, Greitens prohibited guns in the building, sparking an outcry among some lawmakers.

Rep. Nick Marshall, a Republican from Platte County, for example, said the ban infringed on the rights and freedoms of visitors to the Capitol.

After the prohibition went into effect, Marshall erected a sign on his office door in the Capitol offering to lend guns to people while they visit the building.

Greitens, who left office under the cloud of scandal on June 1, reversed course a month later and said guns would be OK if the owners had permits.

That decision raised eyebrows among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, as well as gun control advocates.

For example, although visitors must pass through metal detectors to gain entry into the building, there are no law enforcement personnel checking to see if people with weapons are going into committee hearings or the House and Senate chambers.

“I am concerned about that,” Sen. Shalonn “Kiki” Curls, D-Kansas City, said at the time.

An estimated 200 members of the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America also called on members of the House and Senate to reject the changes.

The change by Parson is not a surprise. As a former sheriff from Polk County, he has received perfect or near-perfect ratings from the National Rifle Association. 

As a legislator, Parson co-sponsored an expansion of Missouri's "castle doctrine" law, which allows individuals to use deadly force in defense of their homes.

The rule change is being proposed by the Office of Administration. Anyone may file a statement in support or opposition to the amendment within the next 30 days.

No public hearing on the change is scheduled.

Kurt Erickson is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch