New Missouri Gun Rights Law May Be Adjusted

(AP) – A Republican lawmaker wants to tweak Missouri’s gun laws to keep firearms out of the hands of certain felons following a St. Louis judge’s ruling that jeopardizes the state’s current ban on convicted felons possessing guns.

Rep. Kevin Austin is sponsoring a measure to address what supporters say are unintended consequences of Amendment 5, a voter-approved enhancement of gun-rights provisions to the Missouri Constitution that passed in August.

The new wording would allow the state to restrict “violent felons” from carrying guns. But since the state ban applies to all convicted felons, a St. Louis judge said in a ruling that the current law was unconstitutional.

St. Louis City Circuit Court Judge Robert Dierker dismissed gun charges against a convicted felon because he said the Missouri law was too broad and fails to distinguish between violent and non-violent felons.

Austin’s bill defines “violent felony,” which could ensure that at least some people remain subject to the gun ban.

“If we do have constitutional problems with this statute … we want to move fast to bring it back under the constitutional umbrella,” said Austin, R-Springfield.

The bill categorizes a wide variety of crimes as violent felonies, including murder, rape, kidnapping and first-degree arson, assault and robbery. Austin said the list may still be revised by lawmakers.

The measure would apply the gun ban only to those convicted of these violent felonies, exempting individuals convicted of other felonies such as drug possession, fraud and lesser assault charges.

During the 2014 campaign, critics of the measure, including Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker predicted the amendment, if passed, would be called into question because it was too broad.

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