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Lifting of Concealed-Guns Ban on Ballot

April 07, 1999|From Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri residents on Tuesday voted to put on the ballot a measure to lift a concealed-weapons ban that dates back to the days of Jesse James.

The vote marked the first time a state has put the question of concealed weapons to the voters. Thirty-one other states allow citizens to carry concealed guns, but those measures were enacted by legislators.

Proposition B resulted from failed yearly attempts by pro-gun lawmakers to pass a concealed-weapons law against a threatened veto by Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan.

The National Rifle Assn. almost single-handedly bankrolled the campaign for Proposition B--providing more than $3.7 million, significantly more than 95% of the money behind the measure--in what was viewed as an important test of gun sentiment in the heartland.

"Since this is the first time it's ever been put to a vote, both sides on this issue are going to learn a tremendous amount," said Fred Myers, a leader of the Proposition B campaign. "This will be a race that political scientists and pundits will mull for years because it's breaking such new ground."

Supporters said allowing law-abiding people to pack guns would keep the criminals guessing.

"The honest people of this state need to be able to defend themselves while going from their homes to their businesses," Greg Jeffrey, a spokesman for the Proposition B campaign, said.

The other side received just one-fourth the funding but had help from First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who recorded a telemarketing message targeted at women. The first lady said Proposition B is "just too dangerous for Missouri families."

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch was among the law enforcement officers who feared that the measure would court trouble: "We don't want to be going back to the old Wild West days with everyone wearing a gun."

James, the Wild West's most notorious outlaw, was a native of Kearny. Missouri banned concealed weapons in a crackdown on gunslinging in 1875, seven years before James was shot to death on the family homestead by a member of his gang.

If Proposition B passes, residents would need a second permit to carry a concealed weapon. Applicants would have to undergo criminal and mental health background checks, take at least 12 hours of state-approved training and have no violent offenses on their records for at least five years.

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