Domestic abusers could not legally have guns under House proposal

      Those under a full order of protection or convicted of a crime of domestic violence would no longer be able to have or buy guns under a proposal now in the Missouri House.  Supporters say the bill would mirror Missouri law to federal law and fix a gap unintentionally created by 2016 legislation.

Representative Ron Hicks (Photo: Mike Lear, Missouri House Communications)

      House Bill 473 would require a court, when issuing an order of protection, to order that the subject of that order not be able to have firearms.  Law enforcement would be notified, to make sure the order is followed.  Those convicted of 2nd degree stalking and 4th degree assault would also not be able to possess a firearm.

      “This bill … is not about taking the 2nd Amendment rights away from you, to bear arms.  It’s about protecting the women and children and even men in our state.  This is an issue I believe all of us can agree on,” said bill sponsor Ron Hicks (R-St. Charles).

      House Bill 473 would address an issue with Missouri state law that was exacerbated with the passage of Senate Bill 656 in 2016.

      “This is something that [the House] has tried to tackle for years.  In 2016 I sat in this body when a promise was made by our former speaker … to have this put back in.  It was stricken out of a bill and all I want to do is put it back in,” said Hicks.

      Judy Kile has testified in past years on previous versions of this language.  For six years she has been the Executive Director of COPE, a shelter in Lebanon.  She told the House Committee on General Laws her twin sister was murdered by her abusive husband. 

She said at her sister’s funeral many people told her they wished there was something they could do.  She told lawmakers, “I’m gonna put that on you all.  There’s something you can do.  You can get the guns away during that time that’s so volatile.”

      Kile said that in her work at the shelter she has seen the patterns to domestic violence.  She said for a variety of reasons, a victim often goes back to an abuser a number of times even after an order of protection or conviction has been secured. 

      “If I took a poll I would say that 90-percent of the people – it’s women, mostly, in our shelter – that come into our shelter have had a gun held to their head in their home, and sometimes, a gun held to their children’s head.”

      The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence has been pushing for passage of this change for years.  Public Policy Director Jennifer Carter Dochler said even before SB 656 in 2016, Missouri had not mirrored the federal Violence Against Women Act.  It gave direction to judges and law enforcement about removing guns from the hands of abusers. 

      What lawmakers unintentionally struck in 2016 had denied those under orders of protection or convicted of domestic assault when they applied for concealed carry permits.  Under the 2016 law those permits are no longer needed.

      “We’re very appreciative of Representative Hicks’ leadership to close a loophole in Missouri’s law and to protect victims of domestic violence,” said Carter Dochler.

      Hicks said following the hearing he spoke to a representative of the NRA and he believes that organization will issue a letter of support for the bill.

      The committee has not voted on the legislation.

Bipartisan effort would create “Blair’s Law,” criminalizing celebratory gunfire

      Three Missouri lawmakers are leading a bipartisan effort to criminalize celebratory gunfire.  Their bills would create what is called “Blair’s Law,” in honor of 11 year-old Blair Shanahan Lane, who was killed by an errant bullet fired during a 4th of July celebration in 2011.

Michelle Shanahan DeMoss talks to the House Committee on General Laws. (Photo: Mike Lear, Missouri House Communications)

      Representatives Rory Rowland (D-Independence), Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon), and Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City) have filed House Bills 722, 795, and 99, respectively.  Those were presented to the House Committee on General Laws, which heard from Blair’s mother, Michele Shanahan DeMoss.

      “It will be 10 years, July of 2021, since my daughter was fatally struck by a bullet,” said Shanahan DeMoss.

      She said her daughter died July 5 and donated six organs to five people. 

      “She gave, as I’m asking you to give the opportunity for this bill to be passed.  It’s a simple request to increase the penalty from a misdemeanor – basically, to me, a parking ticket.  A fine, and go on your way, and it happens year after year after year,” said Shanahan DeMoss.  “If we can increase the penalty of the crime maybe, maybe somebody doesn’t do it.”

Blair Shanahan Lane (courtesy; Michele Shanahan DeMoss)

      Representative Schroer said as he was growing up his family sometimes went to the basement during times of celebration because guns were being fired into the air in the region.

      “One of the pillars of responsible gun ownership is knowing where you’re pointing your gun and knowing where that projectile is going to go and where it’s going to land,” said Schroer. 

      Representative Sharp said between 6pm December 31 and 6am on January 1 in South Kansas City Missouri, at least 12 residences were hit by indiscriminate gunfire. 

He said the shot spotter technology employed by police, “indicated about 1,600 shots were fired in Kansas City alone.”

      Captain Kari Thompson is the Assistant Division Commander for the Homeland Security Division of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department.  She said the legislation would make a common sense change in the law.

Representatives Mark Sharp (at left, holding newspaper), Rory Rowland (wearing mask), and Nick Schroer (right) have all sponsored a version of Blair’s Law. (Photo: Mike Lear, Missouri House Communications)

      “The question is not ‘if’ this will happen again, it’s ‘when.’  We want to remember that this is, for some families, a family tradition.  Let’s go out on the porch or in the back yard and shoot off our weapons in a celebratory manner for 4th of July, for New Year’s Eve, and now for Super Bowl Sundays,” said Thompson.

      Blair was hit in the neck by a bullet fired by a Kansas City man, who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.  He served 18 months in prison.  Had one of these measures been in place he could’ve faced additional prison time for the charge it would create.

      The committee has not voted on the legislation.

Pronunciations:

DeMoss = dee-moss

Kari = CAR-ee

Schroer = shroe-ur

Rory Rowland = roar-ee roe-land

Proposal would give state law enforcement, judges power to take guns from domestic abusers

House lawmakers are being asked to consider an effort late in the session to let judges take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.

Representative Tracy McCreery (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

State law does not prevent those with full orders of protection against them from possessing firearms.  Federal law does, but that means federal agents have to enforce and prosecute such violations.  Advocates say that leaves many Missouri victims of domestic violence in terror, and many have been murdered, because their abusers were allowed to keep their guns.

House Bill 960 would match the state law to federal so that state judges could require that abusers not be allowed to possess or purchase firearms, and so that state authorities could enforce those orders.

The bill is sponsored by St. Louis representative Tracy McCreery (D).

“Adoption of this federal standard would still allow for constitutional carry, but would prevent perpetrators of domestic violence from owning a firearm,” McCreery told the House Committee on General Laws.  “I think that it’s important to empower local officials and believe that this bill’s passage would enhance our ability to assist victims.”

Colleen Coble, Director of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said Missouri needs a state law against gun possession by those convicted of violence against family members, and those who have an order of protection against them after a full court hearing.

“As a result of that, 57 Missourians – women – paid for that with their lives in the last year,” said Coble.  “This is not a Second Amendment issue.  This is a homicide prevention issue.  This is about public safety, and this is about accountability for those who are known by law enforcement officers to be the most likely to continue to escalate and use violence against their victims:  those who harm family members.”

The committee heard emotional testimony from several who had lost loved ones to domestic abusers who used firearms.  Carla West, the Court Advocate at New House Domestic Violence Shelter in Kansas City, said her sister was shot to death by her husband in 2013.  He had prior convictions for domestic assault.

“My brother-in-law, other than being abusive to my sister, was pretty much a law-abiding citizen,” said West.  “I believe with all my heart that if there would have been a law preventing him from having a gun he would have thought twice about having one, and my sister might still be here today.”

McCreery, who said she owns guns herself, said this issue stems from the passage of Senate Bill 656 in 2016, which allowed for constitutional carry in Missouri, effectively replacing the concealed carry permit system that had been in place.

“Within that permitting process for concealed carry was where law enforcement had the ability to deny someone a firearm due to a past conviction, so when we wrote that law and went from concealed carry to constitutional carry, the unintentional loophole that was created is we no longer had that permitting process, so that’s the loophole that was created, and I do believe it was unintentional,” McCreery said.

The legislation has Republican backing.  As Dardenne Prairie Republican Ron Hicks told McCreery, “As one who, as you know, would definitely get on you about something [if I thought you were violating Second Amendment] rights on, I can agree with you on this.  I think it’s a loophole that might’ve been overlooked,” said Hicks.

No one spoke against the bill in the committee hearing.

Previous years’ versions of the bill have been sponsored by a Republican.  Each was heard by a House committee but did not advance.

With only four weeks remaining in the session, backers are hopeful that the language of HB 960 can be added to other legislation that is closer to passage.

The Committee has not voted on HB 960.

Story on last year’s legislation: 

Bipartisan House bills would close ‘loophole’ that allows domestic abusers to have guns

Bipartisan House bills would close ‘loophole’ that allows domestic abusers to have guns

A bipartisan effort to change Missouri gun laws aims to keep domestic abusers from having firearms.

Representatives Donna Lichtenegger (left) and Tracy McCreery co-present their bills aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of individuals with a history of domestic violence. (photo; Chris Moreland, Missouri House Communications)

House Bills 2276 and 1849 are sponsored by Representatives Donna Lichtenegger (R-Jackson) and Tracy McCreery (D-St. Louis), respectively.  Both bills would expand the crime of unlawful possession of a firearm to include those who have been convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors or who have a full order of protection against them.

Representative Lichtenegger said the issue is personal for her because of her own experience with domestic violence.

“When I was four I can vividly remember my mother getting beaten nightly by my drunken father.  Because of that I ended up in a children’s home because he threatened to throw acid in my face,” said Lichtenegger.  “When I was 15 or 16 – don’t remember the age, really, because I don’t remember the night very well – but someone came into my room and beat the crap out of my head.  There’s just no other way to put that.”

Both representatives say the bill would fill in a “loophole” in Missouri law created by the passage of Senate Bill 656 in 2016.  Under the state’s original concealed carry law, Missourians who were found guilty of a domestic violence misdemeanor or who were subject to an order of protection were denied concealed carry permits.  That prohibition was nullified by SB 656.  Federal law denies guns to those with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions or full orders of protection against them, but since Missouri law doesn’t, only federal agents and courts can pursue such cases in Missouri.

“This has been part of federal law since 1997 but the only place that it appeared in Missouri law prior to the enactment of SB 656 was in our CCW chapter, so when we passed 656 we kind of accidentally took those protections out,” said McCreery.  “This actually, truly is an issue that shouldn’t be about political party, so I hope the fact that we’ve worked together on this kind of symbolizes how this is just a good, sensible public policy.”

The bill was presented Tuesday night to the House Committee on General Laws.  Several advocates for domestic violence victims told lawmakers they strongly support the legislation.

Judy Kile, Executive Director of COPE, a shelter in Lebanon, told the committee her twin sister’s husband shot and killed her in a murder-suicide.  He had a history of domestic violence.

“Yesterday was our birthday but one of us isn’t here,” said Kile.  “We need to get the guns out of their hands if they are known to be domestic violence offenders.”

Carla Simpson, who works for New House Shelter in Kansas City, said her sister’s husband also shot her to death in a murder-suicide.

“My brother-in-law was pretty much a law-abiding citizen except for the domestic violence; except for the abuse he caused my sister and he had been to court and he had been convicted of domestic violence,” said Simpson.

She said if a judge had been able to order that her brother-in-law not be allowed to have guns, “I think that Mike would have thought twice about having guns in his house and my sister may still be alive today.  I’m here in her memory.”

Both bills also make gun possession illegal in Missouri for those who are unlawfully in the country or have renounced his or her citizenship.

No one spoke against the proposals in Tuesday night’s hearing.  The committee has not voted on either bill.  Last year similar legislation received a hearing by a House committee but that panel did not vote on it.

Bill aiming to keep guns away from domestic abusers filed

A bill has been filed that aims to keep guns out of the hands of those with a history of domestic violence.

Representative Donna Lichtenegger (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Donna Lichtenegger (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Missourians found guilty of a domestic violence misdemeanor or who were the subject of an order of protection were denied concealed carry permits until the legislature last year overturned the veto of SB 565.  That allowed anyone who can legally carry a gun to carry one concealed even without a permit.  Domestic violence advocates said that meant the one protection victims had from their abusers having a gun had been removed.

Cape Girardeau Republican Donna Lichtenegger’s legislation, House Bill 766, would mirror Missouri law to a 1997 federal law.  It would expand the crime of unlawful possession of a firearm to include those who have been convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors or who have orders of protection against them.

“This bill was worked out between the domestic violence community and the [National Rifle Association],” said Lichtenegger.

Colleen Coble is the Chief Executive Officer of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.  Her organization was one of those concerned about what current Missouri gun law might mean for victims.  She said HB 766 is the fix that law needs.

“It will allow local law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and courts to protect victims in Missouri from the very people who have hurt them – from domestic violence offenders,” said Coble.  “It is dangerous to allow people who have already been convicted in Missouri courts for using violence against their family members … to have guns.  This is very common sense.  It is narrowly limited to keeping guns out of the hands of those who have already hurt their families.”

Lichtenegger said she felt strongly about filing such a bill because of domestic violence committed by her father when she was a child against her, her mother and her brother.

According to the Highway Patrol, 74-percent of the 30 domestic violence related homicides in Missouri in 2015 involved a firearm.  In 2011 it was 74-percent of 54 such homicides.  The American Journal of Public Health said when a gun is present in a case of domestic violence, there is a 500-percent greater chance of an intimate partner killing his or her partner.

HB 766 includes prohibitions against gun possession by anyone who is in the United States illegally; has been dishonorably discharged from the military; or has renounced United States citizenship.

The bill also includes an emergency clause, which if adopted, would make it effective as soon as it is signed into law by the governor.  Lichtenegger said the earlier this could become law, the better, “because this is a matter of life and death.  We do not want to lose another person due to this horrible, horrible violence.”