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Missouri governor vetoes sweeping gun rights bill

By Summer Ballentine Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a gun measure Monday that would allow the concealed carry of firearms without a permit and expand residents’ rights to stand and fight against perceived threats – a move that could set up a battle with the Republican-controlled Legislature.

In a late Sunday interview with the Associated Press, Nixon cited concerns with a provision that would allow most people to carry concealed guns even if they haven’t gone through the training currently required to get a permit. He said it should be left up to sheriffs to deny concealed carry permits and that changing those laws would mean “dramatic steps backward for public safety.”

“The protections we have in place are working,” the Democratic governor said. “Changing those at this particular point would make Missouri more dangerous.”

In his veto letter, Nixon also said the measure would allow those convicted of misdemeanor assault and two or more misdemeanor drug possessions within the last five years to carry hidden firearms.

Nixon said criticism by some law enforcement officials of the proposed concealed carry changes influenced his decision.

The governor’s veto doesn’t necessarily mean the bill is dead. The measure passed with enough Republican support for lawmakers to override Nixon and vote the bill into law if they stick to their original votes. The Legislature will convene for a short session in September to consider overturning the governor’s actions on vetoed legislation.

Sponsor Sen. Brian Munzlinger, a Williamstown Republican, said he’s pushing for lawmakers to override Nixon’s veto. Both Munzlinger and Rep. Eric Burlison, a Springfield Republican who ushered the measure through the House, said people currently can carry weapons openly in certain public places without training and that the legislation would only impact whether a gun is visible or concealed.

Another provision in the bill would expand the state’s “castle doctrine,” which permits homeowners to use deadly force against intruders. The bill would also allow invited guests, such as baby sitters, to do so.

The measure also would create a “stand-your-ground” right that would mean people no longer would need to retreat from danger in any place they are legally entitled to be present.

Nixon’s action comes amid a national discussion of gun rights and restrictions following a deadly shooting earlier this month at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Democratic U.S. House members in response staged a sit-in on the chamber floor to demand votes on bills to strengthen background checks and prevent suspected terrorists from buying guns. At least three other Democratic governors have taken action on gun legislation since the shooting, according to gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety spokeswoman Lizzie Ulmer.

Nixon said his veto was not in reaction to the Orlando shooting.

At least 10 other states already have what supporters describe as “constitutional carry” allowing concealed guns without permits, including legislation enacted this year in Idaho, Mississippi and West Virginia, according to the National Rifle Association.

The NRA says 30 states have laws or court precedents stating people have no duty to retreat from a threat anywhere they are lawfully present.

Democratic lawmakers had said the Missouri proposal would lead to more gun violence and encourage a shoot-first mentality. Some Republicans said Democrats’ concerns are overblown and described it as a reasonable approach to public safety.

“Average, everyday Missourians don’t have guard detail like the governor does escorting them around and providing security for them,” Burlison said. “They can’t carry with them a police officer everywhere they go.”

Most of the more than 4,000 emails, faxes, letters, mail-ins and electronic petitions about the bill that Nixon received since it passed the Legislature on the final day of session in May were critical of the measure, according to Nixon’s office.

More than 3,300 messages were petitions from Everytown for Gun Safety that described the measure as “dangerous” and “reckless.”

“Stand your ground is nothing more than legal vigilantism,” reads a message from a woman who asked Nixon to veto the bill.

One man wrote that restrictions on gun use only make law-abiding citizens jump through hoops, arguing that criminals don’t follow laws anyway.

“The right to keep and bear arms is a constitutionally protected right, and if you have to pay the government and get permission for it, then it becomes a government granted privilege,” the message reads.

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