Lawmakers work to close gun loophole

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JEFFERSON CITY - Two Missouri lawmakers are working to close a loophole that made it easier for domestic abusers to have guns.

Representives Donna Lichtenegger, R-Cape Girardeau, and Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis, are presenting House Bills 2276 and 1849. Both aim to take guns out of the hands of abusers. 

“We think that protecting domestic violence victims is a bipartisan issue, not just a republican or democratic issue. It’s a 'let’s keep people safe issue,'” McCreery said. 

She said the loophole was created accidentally by legislators in 2016 with House Bill 656. She said lawmakers accidentally took out protection for domestic violence victims. 

She said with the new bills, she’s hoping to make the mistake right. 

“So what we’re doing doing this hearing is presenting on how we could close that loophole and save lives,” McCreery said. 

For Lichtenegger, the legislation is personal.

“My mother was domestically assaulted. I remember it vividly and I ended up in a children’s home because my dad was so violent, for the protection of my brother and I,” she said. 

In her teenage years, Lichtenegger was a victim of abuse again.  

“All I remember is someone coming in and just beating me in the head. They found the person and he was gone, shortly thereafter, but the concussion was bad enough that I don’t really remember anything. So this is important to me,” she said. 

According the the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, about 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in Missouri have experienced domestic violence. The presence of a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent, the organization says. 

Lichtenegger said the bills aren't about taking away people’s Second Amendment rights. 

“I’m a life member of the NRA,” she said. “This is not about keeping guns away from people, because people hurt people, not the weapon," she said. “This about taking guns away from not hurting another person and not hurting themselves.” 

The bill had its second hearing Tuesday night, along with commentary from the public. McCreery said she’s glad the bill is getting introduced early in the session.