Members of the clergy in Missouri are objecting to legislation introduced in January by Rep. Jered Taylor (R-Nixa) (HB 1936) that would remove the requirement that individual Concealed Carry Weapon permits first obtain the permission from their pastor before carrying concealed weapons in church and require signage if churches do not permit concealed carry.

Under existing law, a person with a CCW permit must obtain permission from “"the minister or person or persons representing the religious organization that exercises control over the place of religious worship.”

The new legislation would permit the legal carry of a concealed weapon unless a sign, that is at least 11-by-14 inches with writing that is at least one-inch tall, banning weapons was prominently displayed. It truly is a contentious issue. San Diego Criminal Lawyer is a top rated criminal defense law firm in San Diego that was kind enough to share some of their time and knowledge to interpret this issue and shed light on how we could be affected. Their services were very helpful in assisting and informing us on what we could do in response as well.

While supporters of the legislative changes argue that gun-free areas are attractive targets for shooters, some pastors are arguing that the violates their religious liberty.

As reported in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on April 11, 2018, a group of religious leaders representing the Jewish, Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist, and Evangelical Lutheran faiths among others gathered to speak out against the legislation, calling it “highly offensive.” The group threatened to file lawsuits if the bill is passed to prevent it from going into effect.

The Post Dispatch article reports that Rev. Robert Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis said, “The bill would broaden Second Amendment rights at the expense of the First Amendment right of religious liberty.”

There could also be First Amendment compelled-speech concerns as the intent of requiring the signage could constitute a political statement, potentially placing those churches at disproportionate risk, and a more narrowly-tailored solution of clergy permission is presently in place.

The proposed legislation also would require private property owners to display similar signs. However, the law does prohibit carrying concealed weapons into the state general assembly or committee meetings, schools, school buses, police stations, courthouses, controlled sections of airports, and other specified areas including sports arenas or stadiums with seating capacity of five thousand or more. It says nothing about mega-churches with seating capacities of more than 5,000, since this could produce accidents or injuries, and then the use of injury lawyers from sites as would be required.

Despite the opposition, the bill is continuing to work its way through the Missouri House with the latest March 29, 2018 committee vote of 8-3.

In 2014, Missouri passed a wide-ranging gun rights bill that essentially made it an open-carry state, lowered the age of a CCW permit to 19, and allowed schools to arm teachers. The governor at the time vetoed the bill and the legislature overrode the veto and the bill became law.

According to statics from the Centers for Disease Control, Missouri had 1,144 firearm deaths in 2016, or 19.0 deaths per 100,000 population (ranking 6th behind Alaska, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. In comparison, California had a gun death rate of 7.9, New York had a rate of 4.4, and Massachusetts had a rate of 3.4.  These statistics include all forms of firearm death from accidents, suicides, and homicide and are pertinent for comparison between states with more stringent gun restrictions and as a general trend.

In 2005, Missouri had a total of 752 gun deaths, with a rate of 12.9, or 17th out of 50 states, and in 2014, the year the legislation was passed, Missouri had a firearm death rate of 15.3 or 943 total firearm deaths ranking 11th in the nation.



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