Missouri bishops oppose bill allowing concealed carry without permit

by Kristen Whitney Daniels

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Missouri's Catholic bishops are supporting Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a bill that would allow residents to conceal a weapon without a permit. In addition, the bishops are requesting that the Missouri General Assembly uphold the governor's decision when they reconvene next month.

According to the law in question, SB 656, people would be allowed to carry "a knife, firearm … or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use" without a permit. This right would only extend to places that have been previously designated as areas where one can conceal a weapon. It would not extend to areas that have already been specified as non-concealment areas like churches, places of worship, election precincts and any government buildings.

Bishops from the all the Catholic dioceses in Missouri have signed the letter supporting the veto. In a statement published by the St. Louis Review Aug. 15, the bishops wrote, "SB 656 decriminalizes the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit, thereby opening the door for Missouri citizens to lawfully conceal carry without undergoing any training, or taking the other steps necessary to obtain a permit. We feel compelled to oppose this change to Missouri's concealed carry statute."

"Amending our current statutes to allow concealed carry without a permit is a move in the wrong direction, and we believe it would be detrimental to public safety and the common good," the bishops statement added.

Within SB 656 is a clause for a person to use force when feeling threatened. The proposed "stand your ground" law would allow a person to use physical force when a person perceives a threat. The law states that a person can use deadly force to protect themselves, an unborn child or another person when facing "death, serious physical injury or any forcible felony." This usage of force would extend to anyone who unlawfully enters a person's private property.

The bishops are unsure of the necessity and value of the "stand your ground" law stating that it is likely to "undermine public safety and potentially put law enforcement at risk."

"Catholic Church teaching recognizes the right to self-defense as a way of preserving one's life and in defense of others in the face of an imminent threat," the bishops wrote in the statement. "We encourage Missouri citizens of good will, however, not to fall prey to the notion that we are somehow safer as individuals and as a society if everyone is always and everywhere armed."

Nixon vetoed the bill in a letter sent June 27, citing support from various Missouri law enforcement agencies. According to the Kansas City Star, SB 656 has already been successfully passed through the Missouri House and Senate with large enough majorities that could render Nixon's veto useless. The law and veto will be discussed again when lawmakers return in September.

[Kristen Whitney Daniels in an NCR Bertelsen editorial intern. Her email address is kdaniels@ncronline.org.]

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