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Recent Changes in Missouri’s Firearms Laws

For the past fifteen years, local governments throughout Missouri, and throughout the country, have had to navigate a rapidly changing landscape regarding firearms laws. Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, such as DC v. Heller, and McDonald v. Chicago, have invalidated city ordinances banning handguns. Many changes to Missouri’s laws relating to firearms went into effect on January 1, 2017. Others went into effect on October 14, 2016, after the General Assembly overrode Governor Nixon’s veto of Senate Bill 656. Ensuring the safety of the public is one of the core responsibilities of local government. It is now legal in Missouri for most people to carry a firearm in all but a few specified places. These recent changes have forced cities to consider new strategies to adapt to the recent court decisions and new state laws.

Recent History in Missouri

As recently as 2002, it was a felony to carry a concealed firearm most anywhere. Openly carrying a firearm was not generally a crime in Missouri, though some cities banned open carrying. In 2003, Missouri authorized the issuance of concealed carry (“CCW”) permits. Since 2003, the statutes regulating firearms and CCW permits have been amended numerous times. In 2014, the Missouri Constitution was amended to declare the right to bear arms “unalienable,” and to subject any restriction to strict scrutiny. In 2016, Senate Bill 656 was passed, decriminalizing carrying a concealed firearm in all but a few locations. Currently, anyone able to possess a firearm can legally carry a concealed firearm in most places, except those places listed in section 571.107, of the Missouri Revised Statutes (“RSMo.”).

Permits

While a CCW permit is no longer necessary to carry a concealed weapon, a permit has advantages. As of 2014, city ordinances banning openly carrying a firearm are no longer applicable to persons holding a CCW permit. While a CCW permit doesn’t authorize carrying a concealed firearm into the places listed in 571.107 (police stations, polling places, jails, courthouses, certain gov’t. buildings, taverns, schools, & several others), it’s not a crime for CCW permit holders to do so. A CCW permit holder can be refused entry and fined $100 if he or she refuses to leave. Non-permit holders could be charged with the crime of unlawful use of a weapon under section 571.030, RSMo. The provisions of the unlawful use of a weapon statute banning carrying firearms at a church, polling place, government building, or a school do not apply to CCW permit holders. However, CCW permit holders carrying a concealed firearm can still be denied entry or cited for refusing to leave.

Local Governments

Under section 21.750, RSMo., cities cannot enact firearms laws more restrictive than state statutes. The Missouri General Assembly has preempted local ordinances relating to firearms, and has left only a few narrow areas in which a city can regulate. Cities can still regulate discharging firearms within the city, carrying concealed weapons into government buildings, and openly carrying firearms (though CCW permit holders can still openly carry in those cities). Though most people can carry a concealed weapon without a permit in many places, the law treats CCW permit holders very differently from non-permit holders.

Generally speaking, there are four pertinent questions local officials must consider to determine whether a person can carry a firearm to a particular location:

1. Is carrying a firearm in a particular location the crime of unlawful use of a weapon under section 571.030, RSMo.?
2. Does section 571.107, RSMo. prohibit carrying a concealed firearm in the location?
3. Has the city enacted an ordinance prohibiting openly carrying firearms? and
4. Does the person carrying a firearm have a CCW permit?

The circumstances under which a person can carry a firearm, openly or concealed, can be quite confusing. There are exceptions to laws and, in some cases, exceptions to the exceptions. City officials should carefully review the Missouri statutes and city ordinances and consult with their counsel to ensure that the public is kept safe and the state’s firearms laws are adequately and accurately enforced.

UPDATE – June 23, 2017 – A circuit judge for the City of St. Louis has entered summary judgment in favor of the St. Louis Zoo in its lawsuit for an injunction preventing Jeffry Smith from openly carrying a firearm on the Zoo’s property. The Zoo posts signs at its entrances stating “no firearms or weapons allowed on this property.” The City of St. Louis has enacted an ordinance banning openly carrying firearms. Smith, who holds a CCW permit from Ohio, believed the Zoo’s ban on firearms was illegal and would not apply to him as a CCW permit holder. He announced his intent to openly carry a firearm on the Zoo grounds. In 2015, the Zoo was granted a preliminary injunction to prevent Smith from carrying a weapon on the Zoo grounds.

The court issued a permanent injunction prohibiting Smith from carrying a firearm at the Zoo (whether carried openly or concealed). The court found that, though the City’s open carry ban did not apply to Smith as a CCW permit holder, he was nevertheless prohibited from openly carrying a firearm by section 571.107, RSMo., which provides that a CCW permit does not authorize a person “to carry concealed firearms into: …” the seventeen enumerated locations, including educational facilities, day cares, and amusement parks. The court found that the Zoo qualified as a school facility and an amusement park. Critically, the court’s judgment indicates that the City’s open carry ban remained in effect, even as to CCW permit holders, at the locations listed in section 571.107. Therefore, carrying a firearm, whether openly or concealed, at the locations listed in 571.107 is prohibited in the City of St. Louis. Furthermore, the court found that the Zoo’s policy did not conflict with the Missouri Constitution’s declaration that the right to bear arms is unalienable, and that any restriction on that right is subject to strict scrutiny.

Smith can appeal the court’s decision to the Missouri Court of Appeals. Until the court’s judgment is reversed or amended (or the pertinent statutes are amended by the General Assembly), section 571.107, RSMo. prohibits carrying a firearm, openly or concealed, to all the locations listed therein, even if the person carrying the firearm has a CCW permit. The case is styled Zoological Park Subdistrict of the Metropolitan Park Museum District v. Smith, 1522-CC09876.

For more information, please contact Brian J. Malone at bmalone@lashlybaer.com, or at 314-436-8375, or contact your Lashly & Baer attorney.

 

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