A recently enacted ban on openly carrying firearms in Kansas City was the target of Missouri lawmakers Wednesday.
On a party-line vote, Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of legislation prohibiting local governments from banning open carry was overridden in the Missouri Senate. The House was widely expected to follow suit late Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, the House voted to override the governor’s veto of one of the strictest abortion laws in the country. It was then taken up by the Senate, where its chances are in doubt thanks to a promised filibuster by Democrats.
Both bills faced fierce opposition from Senate Minority Leader Jolie Justus. On the gun bill, Justus said she feared it would hurt Kansas City’s efforts to combat gun violence.
“The reality is in Kansas City and St. Louis we are seeing gun violence that is tops in the nation,” said Justus, a Kansas City Democrat. “Adding guns, even to law abiding citizens, for them to openly brandish them in the city will not help us reduce gun violence.”
On July 31, the Kansas City Council voted 9-0 to ban open carry within the city limits. Mayor Sly James made sustaining the governor’s vetoes one of his top priorities, denouncing the bill as a step backward for public safety.
“This bill is dangerous,” James said at a news conference earlier in the week.
In an addition to the open carry provisions, the bill also creates a training program for teachers to carry guns in schools and lowers the age requirement for a concealed-carry permit to 19 from 21.
Sen. Will Kraus, a Lee’s Summit Republican who sponsored the legislation, said the issue was whether local governments should be allowed to restrict someone’s constitutional rights. The legislation mandates a person have a concealed-carry permit in order to legally openly carry, Kraus said. That means people would have to go through gun training needed to get that permit.
“These individuals have been qualified with their weapons, and I believe they should have the right to open carry,” he said. “We want to protect their rights.”
As for the abortion bill, if enacted it would require women to wait 72 hours after consulting a doctor before having an abortion. The current waiting period is only 24 hours. It includes no exceptions for victims of rape and incest.
That would put Missouri’s waiting period second only to South Dakota’s in length, where the waiting period can extend even longer than 72 hours because it doesn’t count weekends or holidays.
Rep. Kevin Elmer, a Republican from Nixa who sponsored the bill, argued that children conceived in rape or incest deserve protection.
“I value life at all cost,” he said.
Critics of the legislation say the waiting period represents an unconstitutional obstacle for women seeking to have a legal medical procedure. That’s especially true for low-income women, they argue, since the only Missouri facility that performs elective abortions is in St. Louis, meaning travel and hotel costs could prove daunting.
Rep. Kathie Conway, a St. Charles Republican, pointed out that abortions are performed just across the Missouri state line in clinics in Overland Park and Granite City, Ill. — 15 minutes from St. Louis.
The 72-hour waiting period would not apply to those clinics.
“If it cannot wait, go across the river where it can happen tomorrow,” Conway said.
Senate Democrats planned to filibuster the bill in the hopes that they can push off a vote until after Republican Sen. David Pearce leaves town.
Pearce, of Warrensburg, has said he has a previous family commitment and must leave the Capitol if the session went longer than one day. Without Pearce’s vote, the GOP would no longer have a veto-proof supermajority in the Senate.
In addition to the guns and abortion bills, Nixon also vetoed 31 other bills and more than 130 budget items.
Shortly before 7 p.m., the Missouri House had voted to override 55 of the governor’s budget vetoes, totaling more than $60 million in spending. The Senate voted to override many of those vetoes. Senate leaders planned to vote on the rest Wednesday night.
Most of the override votes in the House and Senate had overwhelming bipartisan majorities. In the Senate, only one lawmaker — Democrat Joe Keaveny of St. Louis — voted against the overrides.
Nixon has argued that while many of the items he vetoed were worthy of funding, the state couldn’t afford them. Republican leaders say the Democratic governor set the wrong priorities with his vetoes.
Despite the legislature’s efforts to override the governor’s budget vetoes, Nixon could still withhold the reinstated funding if he believes state revenues will not be able to cover the expenses. Republican leaders conceded that point but said they went through with the overrides to send the governor a message.