Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed legislation Monday that would eliminate the requirement to get a permit to legally walk around in public with concealed guns.
The wide-ranging gun bill would have also implemented a controversial “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.
In a letter explaining his veto to lawmakers, Nixon, a Democrat, said the bill would “render meaningless the existing authority of sheriffs to deny concealed carry permits.”
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Nixon said the bill 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.”
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.
To get a permit to carry a concealed firearm in Missouri, a person must complete a gun safety training class and pass a criminal background check performed by the local sheriff. With a clean record and no history of mental illness, a permit must be issued.
Doing away with the need to go through that process, and opening the door for people who are currently prohibited from carrying a concealed weapon to do so, “would make Missouri less safe.”
Nixon never mentioned the other provisions in the legislation in his veto letter, despite the fact that his fellow Democrats in the Missouri Senate keyed in on the “stand your ground” provision in opposing the bill.
“Stand your ground” laws have been controversial for years, but they gained national attention in 2012 when George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida, fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.
Martin was wearing a hoodie and carrying a bag of Skittles. Zimmerman said he shot and killed him because he feared great bodily harm or death, and he was ultimately acquitted by a jury.
A study by researchers at Texas A&M found “significant evidence that (stand your ground) laws lead to more homicides.” Homicide rates in states with “stand your ground” laws increased around 8 percent, the study found.
In a release issued Sunday night announcing his decision to veto the bill, Nixon pointed to opposition to the legislation from the Missouri Police Chiefs Association and the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police.
“I cannot support the extreme step of ... eliminating sensible protections like background checks and training requirements, and taking away the ability of sheriffs to protect their communities,” Nixon said.
Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, Police Chief Darryl Forté and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker had implored Nixon to veto the bill because they feared if he didn’t it would “undoubtedly put our citizens in danger and invite more gun violence onto our streets.”
The Republican-dominated Missouri General Assembly will have an opportunity to override Nixon’s veto in September. The bill passed both the House and Senate with large enough majorities for an override.