Sgt. Heather Taylor, a homicide detective in St. Louis and leader of the city’s police association for black officers, considers herself well-informed on crime-related issues. But she hadn’t heard about House Bill 1936 – the “guns everywhere” bill – which would allow concealed guns into places that are currently designated gun-free zones, including churches, college campuses, bars and government buildings.
“What?!” said Taylor, president of the Ethical Society of Police. “You are talking about introducing guns in places where they shouldn’t be. You will see an increase in gun violence in public places.”
Despite the renewed focus on gun laws around the country, many people have not heard about this bill. Even people who are tracking it don’t understand the extent of the legislation.
The EYE asked the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Jered Taylor (R-Nixa) to explain what changes HB 1936 would bring. He said if the bill passes “law-abiding citizens” would be able to conceal carry with or without a permit into the following 10 locations: churches, amusement parks, stadiums, hospitals, casinos, bars, child care facilities, polling locations, local government buildings and state government buildings. The law also lists private schools. These locations were previously considered gun-free zones for civilian concealed carry.
Individuals would have to have a concealed carry weapons (CCW) permit in order to carry into college campuses and the Capitol, Taylor said. And colleges and other institutions don’t have a choice in the matter. Thebill states that state, political subdivisions and public institutions of higher learning cannot impose any policies or contractual requirements that would prohibit employees or students from carrying concealed firearms.
“Again I want to reiterate, the locations that are private property locations would have the ability to choose whether or not to allow guns on their property,” Taylor told The St. Louis American. “If they do not want weapons in their establishment, they would simply post a sign, exactly what all other private property owners have to do under current statute.”
Is it dead?
Speaker of the House Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) has not yet put the bill on the legislative calendar. With the legislative session ending on Friday, May 18, some believe that the bill is dead. The full House would have to perfect the bill, have a third reading and then take a final vote to pass it. Then it would have to pass in the Senate, which is where similar legislation stalled last year.
“It wouldn’t have enough time to even make it through the House at this point,” said state Rep. Michael Butler (D-St. Louis). “It is important to note that the Speaker of the House has held on to the bill and not put it on the calendar since March 29.”
Four days after the nation’s capital had its largest political rally in history with March For Our Lives on March 24, Missouri Republicans passed the bill through the Rules Committee with a 8-3 vote. Only one Republican voted against the measure, state Rep. Noel J. Shull (R-Kansas City).
“This is their solution to the Parkland shooting, and it’s not going to work,” Butler said. “They believe when people have guns, they won’t get shot.”
Supporters testified that gun-free zones just create opportunities for shooters, according to the bill summary.
“Establishing gun-free zones has not ended mass shootings,” the bill summary states of supporters’ testimonies. “Law enforcement can’t be everywhere; they can’t stop all crimes in progress. People need to be able to defend themselves.”
Butler said that religious organizations were some of the most outspoken in opposition to the bill and reached out to their representatives.
“Guns being allowed in churches is not a good idea,” Butler said, “and HB 1936 would have done that. Imagine a religious institution getting sued for asking someone to remove their weapon before worship service.”
The grassroots group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America will not be celebrating until 6 p.m. on May 18.
“As you know, there are many ways a bill can become a law,” said Karen Randolph Rogers, the state legislative lead for Moms Demand Action. “It can be attached to an amendment. We are cautious and still encouraging supporters to keep watching and calling their state representatives. We don’t want to see it pass in any form. It is a poison pill.”
This bill would make Missouri’s gun laws even more lax. Already people don’t need a permit to carry a concealed weapon, after the state Legislature passed the “constitutional carry” bill in 2016 which eliminated the requirements for some permits and gun-safety training. People can legally buy a gun without going through a background check from certain places. Last year, legislators passed a “stand your ground” law allows for people to use the “I feared for my life” defense when shooting someone else.
Taylor said these laws have already made the number of homicides go up. And what these laws really do is justify the killing of black and brown people, she said.
“The people moving forward with this legislation are people who don’t have black and brown kids, relatives or family or haven’t been affected by gun violence at all,” Taylor said. “March For Our Lives doesn’t mean anything to them.”
Arming teachers passes
The Moms Demand Action members have good reason to be cautious before accepting that this bill is dead. On May 8, Republicans added an amendment to arm school employees onto a giant education bill, Senate Bill 743. The amendment passed 96-38, and the bill passed shortly after. In a tweet, state Rep. Stacey Newman (D-Clayton) stated, “Rep. (Rick) Brattin‘s amendment to add armed school staff did not have a public hearing. Parents, teachers, school administrators, school board members, superintendents had no opportunity to weigh in. Public says NO to more guns in schools.”
On May 11, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen perfected 21st Ward Alderman John Collins-Muhammad’s bill that would prevent the city from chopping the number of its wards in half – from 28 to 14. In 2012, voters approved the plan to reduce the number of aldermen and wards, and it will take effect in 2022.
After introducing Board Bill 25 on April 27, Collins-Muhammad said the purpose of the original bill was to “white-wash” the electorate.
“The reduction of black aldermen will essentially take away black influence in the city’s political spectrum – which one can assume is the ultimate plan,” he wrote in a letter to American.
Some aldermen said they might have supported the measure, but they couldn’t support the amendment that was proposed on the floor on Friday, which amended the date to put the bill on the ballot for a municipal election on April 2, 2019. Municipal elections are notorious for low voter turnouts, unlike when the bill passed in a high-turnout November 2012 general election. The amendment and the bill both passed with a 15-13 vote. The bill must pass a final vote and then go to the mayor, who has said will wait to see the final form of legislation before deciding whether to sign or veto.
A bill to remove the residency requirement for city employees was also perfected on May 11. Currently, the Charter of the City of St. Louis requires persons employed on a full-time basis by the city to reside in the city.