While federal officials and lawmakers in other states
consider ways to tighten gun regulations, Missouri legislators are mostly
looking to expand gun rights.
In the first month of the Legislature's 2013 session, a dozen bills have been filed to loosen gun restrictions, including proposals that would allow teachers to carry guns in their classrooms and make it illegal to enforce certain federal firearms laws.
After a deadly school shooting in Connecticut last month, liberal groups have been calling for a review of gun policies across the country. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama announced a series of reforms targeting gun violence through executive order. He also called on Congress to pass measures to require universal background checks for gun purchases, and legislators in New York recently passed one of the strictest gun laws in the nation.
But Missouri lawmakers have worked for several years to scale back the state's gun restrictions and appear unlikely to move from that position.
Their fondness for firearms is perhaps best illustrated in the fact that several carry guns in the Capitol, thanks to a law enacted in 2011. Skeet shoots, "shoot outs" and other activities involving live firearms were popular fundraising events for legislative candidates during last year's election cycle.
During his decade in the Legislature, Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, has often been at the forefront of pro-gun legislation.
"We've trended toward more freedoms for law-abiding citizens," he said. "We're protecting the right to protect ourselves."
Recent efforts have included approval and growth of the state's concealed carry law and the passage of a "Castle Doctrine" law.
For many Republican lawmakers, the issue is simple: "Constituents in my area are really concerned about overreach of the federal government," said Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield. "What many consider a way of life is at risk."
Munzlinger is sponsoring a bill this session that would prohibit the enforcement of any new federal laws that restrict access to semiautomatic firearms or magazines.
"Criminals don't obey laws -- you can pass all the laws you want and it won't stop a criminal," he said. "It takes good people in society to obeys laws, and when you put laws out there that infringe on freedoms you're just hurting the law-abiding citizens."
Munzlinger called the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting "a very hideous crime," but he said it shouldn't be used to push restrictions on lawful gun owners.
"That was a cowardly act by a deranged individual who had actually been turned down in a background check," Munzlinger said.
The Los Angeles Times reported in December that the Sandy Hook shooter, Adam Lanza, did not undergo a background check. He was turned away at a gun shop because he did not want to wait for the required 14-day check, law enforcement sources said.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Democrats have filed bills to try to keep tabs on guns in Missouri. Most observers believe they have little chance of passage in the GOP-dominated Legislature.
Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, has introduced a bill that would make it illegal to negligently store a firearm and would require parents
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