A look at constitutional carry, Missouri\'s new gun law

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COLUMBIA - On January 1, 2017, constitutional carry will become the law of the land in Missouri. People allowed to legally purchase a firearm will be able to conceal and carry it without requiring a permit or additional training.

The number of conceal and carry permits issued in Boone County in 2016 has drastically decreased. In February, the county issued 467 conceal and carry permits; half were new permits and half were renewals. That number dropped to 46 in September.

Local law enforcement officials said they think Missourians are waiting for January 2017, when they will no longer need a permit or additional training to conceal and carry their weapon. 

"What concerns me the most is good people," Todd Burke, a local certified firearms trainer said. "Well-intentioned people don't really understand how much of a responsibility they're entering into when they decide to carry a firearm."

Missouri has always been an open carry state, meaning gun owners could openly carry their firearm in public places with some exceptions, including schools and daycares. 

Major Tom Reddin of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department said Columbia has no municipal ordinance barring a person from openly carrying a firearm.

"But, you know, it certainly draws attention to oneself to openly carry, perhaps not the wisest thing to do," Reddin said. 

Currently, to conceal and carry in Missouri, gun owners are required to complete training to receive a concealed carry permit. The training instructs the gun owner on proper handling, safe storage, use of force laws and more.

However, after the passage of Senate Bill 656, that won’t be the case come January 2017. 

"Kind of the downfall of this bill is that without the requirement for the concealed carry permit also goes away the training requirement," Reddin said. "So, you know, even the concealed carry instructors out there will tell you that that's a concern."

Burke, who also teaches a concealed carry course, had a similar takeaway. He said taking away the training requirement puts the burden of responsibility on citizens.

"The 5400 people we've trained in the past 13 years, probably the most significant comment people have made is that they didn't realize what they didn't know," Burke said. "There's just so much more to not just the law, state statutes on use of force, the constitutional precedents for use of force. There's just a lot of information you don't get by watching a video."

Although the change in the law could affect Burke’s business, he said he still lobbied for the removal of the permit and training requirement.

"Constitutionally, I don't think you should have to get a permit to do this," Burke said. "Yeah, that might change as far as my livelihood. But, I will continue to offer the course in its present form because I know there's intelligent people out there who realize, ‘I don't want lowest common denominator training to just get by. I really want to be prepared for this."

Starting January 2017, residents who want to buy a gun can go into a store and walk out with a firearm and ammunition after passing a national background check. However, this new background check isn’t as extensive as the one used when receiving a concealed carry permit. 

"The NICS check is there, the background check for a concealed permit was a little bit more comprehensive than what goes on to the NICS background information," Reddin said. "So, you know those who were able to purchase a firearm may have had a little more difficult time and in many instances, well not many, a few instances, could not get a conceal carry permit.”

However, Major Reddin said this quicker background check isn't what puts guns hands of criminals.

"The bad guys are going to get them the way they always have. They're going to steal them, they're going to trade drugs for them, that kind of thing. So you know, this does not arm the bad guy," Reddin said. 

Since 2016 is an election year, Reddin said it puts more focus on the new constitutional carry law than there would be otherwise.

"Firearms and the constitution have always kind of been a hot button issue so I think this is one that would've been talked about regardless," he said. "But, it certainly, because of all the added flair this year, is brought to the forefront a little more."

Senate Bill 656 also creates extended permits that will last anywhere from 10 years to a lifetime. However, the only permits valid outside Missouri will be the previous five-year ones. So, Major Reddin said the extended permits are a waste of money.