Publishers Confused by Gun Bill

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri General Assembly will begin its Veto Session Wednesday, September 11. If one bill is overridden, you may not see gun owners' names published. Section 571.011 of House Bill 436 could make it a misdemeanor to publish gun owners' names.

Section 571.011 states:

1. No person or entity shall publish the name, address, or other identifying information of any individual who owns a firearm or who is an applicant for or holder of any license, certificate, permit, or endorsement which allows such individual to own, acquire, possess, or carry a firearm.

2. For purposes of this section, "publish" means to issue information or material in printed or electronic form for distribution or sale to the public.

3. Any person or entity who violates the provisions of this section by publishing identifying information protected under this section is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

The implications of the bill are not entirely known. Jean Maneke, Missouri Press Association's Legal Hotline Counselor, said there are no parameters to set what is and isn't allowed.  "It doesn't matter if somebody's given you consent to publish it, it doesn't matter if this person whose name you publish is a criminal, just this simple act of publication will create this fine."

At this point it appears a legislator who owns a gun cannot have his or her name printed in any article or even on an election ballot. However, the law is completely up to interpretation.

In a letter, Attorney General Chris Koster said, "There is no doubt that HB 436 will be closely scrutinized by the federal courts, and some provisions of the law may be unconstitutional."

Representative Doug Funderbunk, sponsor of HB 436, did not respond to our attempt to contact him, but his office implied section 571.011 would be taken out of the law next year, in the new legislative session, if the bill is overturned.

Maneke said she is concerned several months could pass with the anti-publication rules in effect before legislators could get around to removing it from the law.