Columns

Missouri Republican Puts One in the Chamber for ‘Stand Your Ground’ Showdown

The Republican whom Kansas City Star columnist Barbara Shelly called “the scariest person in Missouri government” could make the Show Me State the first to enact a new “stand your ground” law since George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin.

The NRA wishes there were more politicians like Sen. Kurt Schaefer in the Missouri Legislature. The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund gives him an “A” grade. And with Schaefer’s most recent gun-related legislation, the NRA PAC must like him even more.

Schaefer was able to attach a Stand Your Ground amendment to SB 663, a crime bill in the Missouri Senate that he said would put the burden of proof on the criminal.

SB 663 would allow deadly force to be used against anyone who trespasses on private property if the property owner “reasonably believes” it is “necessary to protect himself, or herself, or her unborn child, or another against death, serious injury, or any forcible felony.”

This is the second time Schaefer has tried to win approval for a Stand Your Ground proposal. In March, he proposed a stand-alone bill that would have allowed a person to use deadly force without the duty to retreat.

Schaefer argued that was a mere expansion of the so-called “castle doctrine” that allows people to defend themselves and their family at home or on their own property. Schaefer’s bill would have allowed a Stand Your Ground defense away from the person’s home.

“You’re going to do whatever you need to do if your safety is in jeopardy,” Schaefer said. “The question is, what happens in the lawsuit after that? Are you going to be faced with liability after that?”

That effort failed, but Schaefer has bounced back with the crime bill amendment, which frightened Becky Morgan, volunteer chapter leader of the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action.

“Do not be misled: Stand Your Ground laws do not deter crime, they make everyday situations more dangerous by allowing people to shoot first and ask questions later,” Morgan said in a statement. “Our lawmakers should focus instead on keeping guns away from dangerous people.”

Everytown for Gun Safety lists Schaefer’s Stand Your Ground amendment, along with two other pieces of gun-related legislation, as “dangerous proposals” from “gun extremists.”

The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action sent emails to members of the gun-rights organization in Missouri to pressure their state senators to vote for Stand Your Ground.

The Missouri Senate’s session is scheduled to end May 13. Assuming the crime bill and Schaefer’s amendment are approved, and the House follows suit, the legislation will go to Gov. Jay Nixon.

The Democrat is not seen as a supporter of Second Amendment issues. The NRA gives Nixon a “C” grade. But the Republicans —controlling both houses of the Legislature — have not had any trouble overriding his vetoes.

Is that all there is? Besides his stand-your-ground-style legislation, what is it that scares Kansas City Star columnist Shelly about Schaefer?

She admitted the Missouri State Capitol is hardly a shelter for the righteous, being that it has “its share of intern harassers and after-hours miscreants.”

However, Shelly claimed Sen. Schaefer, who is also a candidate for Missouri attorney general, is “a different kind of scary — a politician with the talent and ambition to acquire power and a willingness to misuse it.”

Schaefer already has power. He is the chairman of the Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee, and that gives him a big hammer to swing.

A special interest group calling itself FACT (Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust) has filed formal charges against Schaefer, alleging he swung that hammer in such a way as to make it tougher for a University of Missouri professor to run against him in the GOP’s attorney general primary.

FACT alleged Schaefer, as head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, tried to put pressure on former University of Missouri system president Tim Wolfe to make it harder for law professor Josh Hawley to enter the Republican Party’s attorney general primary race.

“Kurt Schaefer had several meetings with me, pressuring me to take away Josh Hawley’s right to run for Attorney General,” FACT said Wolfe wrote in a letter to prominent University of Missouri System supporters in January.

The Missouri Ethics Commission, which at first said it didn’t have the authority to investigate those charges, reversed itself a week later.

The Columbia Missourian reported James Klahr, the executive director of the Ethics Commission, said FACT has submitted new legal arguments that persuaded the commission to change its decision.

Schaefer’s campaign has not commented on the Missouri Ethics Commission decision to open an investigation.

However, Schaefer has said the allegation is nothing but a political maneuver by the Hawley campaign.