The leaders of the Catholic Church in Missouri are calling on lawmakers to uphold Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that would eliminate the need to obtain a permit to carry a concealed gun in public.
In a joint statement, the bishops of the four dioceses of Missouri called the legislation “a move in the wrong direction” that would be “detrimental to public safety and the common good.”
“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 statement says. “We encourage Missouri citizens of goodwill, 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.”
The statement was signed by the Rev. James Johnston Jr., bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph; the Rev. Robert Carlson, the archbishop of St. Louis; the Rev. John Gaydos, bishop of Jefferson City; and the Rev. Edward Rice, bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.
Under current Missouri law, gun owners may legally “open carry” a weapon anywhere that does not expressly forbid the practice. Carrying a concealed weapon requires a permit. Missourians wishing to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm must complete a gun safety course and pass a background check performed by the local sheriff’s office.
In the final hours of the 2016 legislative session, the Missouri General Assembly passed legislation that would make that process moot, eliminating the requirement to get a permit to legally walk around in public with concealed guns and reducing the penalty for carrying a firearm into buildings where it is not allowed.
The wide-ranging gun bill would also would impose a “stand your ground” law, which says people no longer have a duty to try to retreat before using lethal force if they think their life is in danger. It would expand the castle doctrine to permit invited guests in a home to use deadly force on intruders, and for those who still want to get a concealed-carry permit, the bill creates a lifetime version that never expires.
Nixon vetoed the legislation, saying it would allow “individuals to legally carry a concealed firearm even though they have been or would be denied a permit because their background check revealed criminal offenses or caused the sheriff to believe they posed a danger.”
The veto won the support of the Missouri Police Chiefs Association and the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police.
Missouri’s Catholic bishops said the bill “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.”
They added that it would “potentially put law enforcement at risk,” especially in regards to the “stand your ground” provision.
The legislation passed both the Missouri House and Senate with large enough majorities to override a veto. Lawmakers return to Jefferson City next month to consider overriding any of Nixon’s vetoes.