New Gun Law is a Fatal Shot to Missouri [EDITORIAL]
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We have a gun problem.
In 2015, 179 people in St. Louis were shot and killed, according to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, and a slowdown is nowhere in sight. This violence rips neighborhoods apart, compounding economic and social tensions. Gun violence demands action, but the Missouri legislature consistently takes steps in the wrong direction. Their September overturn of Gov. Jay Nixon’s Senate Bill 656 veto will enable Missourians to carry concealed firearms without permits, background checks or any training. This is a dangerous move that could worsen violence, and it must be changed.
Supporters of this bill see gun laws as an unfair restriction on their personal liberty. They cite their Second Amendment rights and see any form of regulation as a threat. The fact is that concealed carry for law-abiding citizens was never threatened under previous laws. People who cleared a background check and went through basic training were free to buy and carry concealed firearms, and the regulations were only meant to stop guns from getting in the hands of felons. Now, these common sense protections are gone and it is easier for people with dangerous intentions to destroy lives and communities. This bill removes obstacles meant to stop criminals from carrying guns and could also increase the pool of weapons in the public for them to steal.
Besides the potential criminal threat, this law could also increase accidental shootings. Looser gun laws generally mean’s more guns in the public, and removing the firearm training requirement means that more people will carry guns who don’t know how to use them. This increases the chance that guns will go off accidentally or will be used incorrectly, leading to even more injuries and deaths. So far this year, there have been 1,696 accidental shootings in the U.S., according to the Gun Violence Archive. This legislation promises to add to this number.
Senate Bill 656 also takes away law enforcement’s ability to deny guns to high-risk individuals like domestic abusers. This makes it more difficult for police to protect Missourians. It also increases the likelihood that civilians will have guns, so police officers now have to assume that everyone carries a gun.
Finally, this bill expands the so-called Castle Doctrine, which previously justified deadly force when one felt threatened on his or her own property. Now it is valid in public. Because of the vague and unquantifiable meaning of “feeling threatened,” deadly force can easily be excused throughout the state, even when it is unnecessary.
In adopting this measure, the Missouri legislature has done away with what many people on both sides of the issue agree were satisfactory gun laws. The previous rules provided regulations to protect civilians while not infringing on law-abiding Missourians’ rights to carry firearms. Lawmakers have now buckled to the gun lobby and refuse to see evidence that more guns and fewer safety precautions can create a volatile situation in the state. Our state Congress should listen to the voices of its own citizens and those from other states and take action to reverse this decision before it becomes a fatal one.