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Gun-Control Groups Lobbying to Block Veto Override of Concealed Carry in Missouri

Missouri House and Senate Republicans knew Gov. Jay Nixon (D) was going to veto concealed-carry measure SB 656, but since they had passed it by a veto-proof margin in June, they figured, why worry?

Becky Morgan, the volunteer leader of the Missouri Chapter of Moms Demanding Action, wants to be the cause of concern the GOP didn’t see coming, but should have.

“It defies common sense to dismantle our concealed-carry laws and make it easier for dangerous people to carry hidden, loaded handguns – yet our lawmakers seem determined to ignore their constituents’ wishes,” she said when the measure came up for debate last spring.

Despite Morgan’s best efforts, House Speaker Todd Richardson (R) and Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe (R) promised a successful override vote as soon as Nixon vetoed the bill in June.

The Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action, which is backed by Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, along with the Catholic Bishops of Missouri and the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, are doing their best to convince at least a couple of the GOP General Assembly members to switch their votes.

The Missouri Times reported that the pro-gun control groups have to flip two Republican votes in the Senate and nine in the House, and Nixon’s veto will stand.

The showdown is scheduled for Sept. 14 in the Missouri General Assembly. The Senate votes first. If the veto override passes, it goes on to the House.

SB 656 would allow Missouri adults to carry concealed weapons without training or permits. It also contains a “stand your ground” provision, which has not received as much attention as the idea of hundreds, if not thousands, of people walking around Missouri fully locked and loaded.

“I cannot support a system that would ignore a determination by the chief law enforcement officer of a county that an individual is a danger to the community and should not be authorized to carry a concealed firearm,” Nixon wrote in his veto message.

A Kansas City Star editorial referred to Nixon’s SB 656 veto as “brave,” and encouraged gun control groups to “target specific lawmakers who might listen to reason.”

To that end, Moms Demand Action released a Survey USA poll, commissioned by Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety, Aug. 31 that showed 85 percent of likely voters in Missouri Senate District 17 supported requiring all gun buyers to pass a criminal background check. It also showed 91 percent support for requiring permits to carry concealed handguns.

Why focus on one Senate district instead of the entire state?

Simply because Republican Sen. Ryan Silvey represents the district. He is considered a moderate, and is running for re-election in November.

Silvey voted for SB 656. But could he be flippable?

“I don’t really believe that poll,” Silvey told the Kansas City Star. “The actual constituency contacts I’m getting are two to one in favor of overriding the governor’s veto. That’s what my constituents are telling me.”

The Catholic Bishops of Missouri has also put pressure on the General Assembly to sustain Nixon’s veto.

“Catholic Church teaching recognizes the right to self-defense as a way of preserving one’s life and in defense of others in the face of an imminent threat. We encourage Missouri citizens of good will, however, not to fall prey to the notion that we are somehow safer as individuals and as a society if everyone is always and everywhere armed,” the bishops said in a statement.

Kevin Ahlbrand, a former St. Louis cop who works as a lobbyist for the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, said by removing the concealed carry permit requirement SB 656 would “take away a tool that local law enforcement officers use to keep dangerous people from carry concealed weapons in public.”

Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety group also ran a TV campaign that urges Missouri voters to protect their state’s “long tradition of responsible gun ownership.”

But SB 656 supporters have been telling Missourians the legislation would actually keep them safer. What could be better than arming all the good guys?

“In an era when we see radical Islamic terrorists shifting their focus to attacks on targets such as employee Christmas parties in San Bernardino or nightclubs in Orlando, we should be doing all we can to make sure the citizens of Missouri have the ability to protect themselves,” said Sen. Brian Munzlinger, the Republican sponsor of the legislation.

Beyond that, the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, which ran a TV ad featuring a woman who said she was able to save her own life with a handgun, has argued overriding SB 656 is also about protecting Second Amendment rights.

“The NRA has publicly condemned the veto of Senate Bill 656 by Governor Nixon,” the NRA-IL said in an appeal to Missouri voters. “If Everytown had its way, the Second Amendment would be repealed and your fundamental right to self-defense would be stripped away.”

House Speaker Richardson also sees the looming SB 656 veto override vote as having implications beyond that specific piece of legislation.

Richardson wrote on his Facebook page that SB 656 was the “first meaningful step forward on gun rights in over a decade.”

“This is why the people of Missouri elected a supermajority of conservative supporters of the 2nd amendment to the House and the Senate,” he said.

As emotional as the debate has been, Gov. Nixon is not going to have to worry about SB 656 after the veto override vote. He has been term-limited out of office after serving two terms.

And assuming the veto override is successful, it could also be the last chance Michael Bloomberg has to sweep in from New York and tells Missourians how to vote.

State Attorney General Chris Koster, who won the Democratic gubernatorial primary, has said he probably would not have vetoed SB 656 if he was in Nixon’s chair.

Republican Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL who won the GOP primary, proudly proclaims he is “a life member of the NRA and a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment and the right of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.”