SPRINGFIELD -- Whether he's going to a grocery store or a gun shop, Springfield resident Keven Helvey never leaves home without a firearm hidden on him somewhere. He said it gives him a feeling of security and it's his Second Amendment right, he added, "There is nothing wrong with a law abiding citizen carrying a gun."
In Missouri, Helvey and others who want to carry a gun concealed have to pay for a permit and go through training and educational courses. Those legal requirements, said Springfield State Rep. Eric Burlison, are unconstitutional and place an undue financial hardship on citizens.
"I think it's wrong when we say, 'We're only going to let you conceal what you already have the right to have. We're only going to let you conceal it if you take a class and pay all the heavy fees that are associated with that,' " explained Burlison. He said some sheriffs' departments charge as much as $200 for the permit, background check, and credit card fees.
Throughout the 2016 legislative session, Burlison worked with other lawmakers to draft Senate Bill 656 (SB 656), which would eliminate the state's conceal and carry requirements, so anyone legally allowed to own a gun could freely carry one without a permit. The measure handily passed in both the House and Senate, but when it reached Governor Jay Nixon's desk in June, he vetoed the bill.
In a statement outlining why he doesn't support SB 656, Nixon said a person who has been charged with a felony but not convicted could still legally carry, he added, "Missouri's system for granting concealed permits has been in place for more than a decade, and it has worked. Senate Bill No. 656 flouts this system, allowing individuals with no training, no proven handgun capability, and no background check to carry concealed."
Governor Nixon's concerns echo those voiced by law enforcement agencies, including the Missouri Police Chiefs Association (MPCA), representing 600 members statewide, and the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 6,400 law enforcement officers across the state.
In a letter to the Governor, Missouri Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Ahlbrand wrote, "Make no mistake, we are staunch supporters of the Second Amendment. We feel, however, that the enactment of SB 656, specifically the allowance of giving anyone not currently prohibited from possessing a firearm, the ability to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, will cost not only citizen lives but will also be extremely dangerous to law enforcement officers."
With a Republican supermajority in both sides of the Chamber, Burlison said there is a strong possibility legislators will override the veto when they meet for the veto session on Wednesday, September 14.