Serious or not, bill requiring AR-15 rifles is a new low for the Missouri legislature

The competition for the worst idea to emerge from the Missouri legislature is always fierce. This year, though, state Rep. Andrew McDaniel may have retired the trophy.

In late February, the Republican from Deering proposed a bill requiring every Missourian over the age of 21 to buy a handgun. Too expensive? The measure offers a state tax credit for 75 percent of the cost of the weapon.

The credit isn’t refundable, by the way. That means poor people with no tax liability couldn’t use the subsidy, while rich people would. Amazing.

McDaniel offered a companion bill requiring all residents between 18 and 35 years of age to purchase a a semi-automatic weapon “modeled on the AR-15 rifle design by AramLite, Inc.” Again, tax credits would be available to defray part of the cost of the purchase.

It’s impossible to overstate the foolishness of both proposals. Missourians who think arming every adult is a good idea should contemplate the carnage that might result if 4.5 million of their neighbors owned guns, including hundreds of thousands of AR-15s, which are designed to kill people.

“This is not a prank,” former Sen. Claire McCaskill wrote in a tweet. “This actually happened. This is embarrassing for my state.” Well, yes.

It’s only a slight relief to learn that McDaniel, a former deputy sheriff, isn’t really serious. “The legislation points out the absurdity of the opposite side and their proposals to add more requirements and barriers for law-abiding citizens,” he told the Associated Press.

McDaniel’s bills do nothing of the sort, of course. Instead, they illustrate the mind-numbing belief among some lawmakers that guns and bullets are the solution to every problem, all of the time, every time.

Missouri, like every state, imposes all sorts of requirements and restrictions on law-abiding citizens: drivers, health care providers, lawyers, publishers, teachers, business owners, others. The restrictions are meant to protect the public’s safety.

Reasonable gun restrictions are part of that safety framework. They’re particularly important in Missouri, which remains one of the most dangerous states in the nation. Anything close to the McDaniel proposals would make the bloodshed substantially worse.

The state representative has hinted in some interviews that his real purpose may be to provide tax credits for gun purchases in Missouri. That, too, is ridiculous. There is no reason Missouri taxpayers should subsidize the private purchase of guns, period.

The obsession with guns in Jefferson City is not healthy. Recently, a top legislative aide was arrested in the capital when a loaded gun fell to the floor after a fight in a bar. The legislature is considering measures that would allow guns in places that ban them now, including bars, child care centers and churches.

That’s a waste of everyone’s time. Missouri’s roads are falling apart; its poor residents can’t get health care; the budget is unfinished; and flood waters are coursing through rural areas. Meaningless bills are useless provocations at precisely the wrong time.

So here’s a modest proposal for state Rep. McDaniel and his colleagues: If these bills come to the floor, legislators should be required to attend at least one memorial service for a murder victim during every session.

We’re confident that spending a few minutes with moms and dads who have lost children to gun violence would be an eye-opening experience.