By Susan Redden
CARTHAGE, Mo. —
In the wake of revelations that information on Missouri permits had been shared with the federal government, two state lawmakers on Monday said they would prefer changes allowing county sheriffs to issue the certificates for people to carry concealed guns.
House Speaker Tim Jones and Sen. Kurt Schaefer, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, traveled to Carthage to discuss their investigation into the Missouri Department of Revenue’s storage and sharing of private information about state residents.
The probe focuses on a list of state residents with concealed-gun permits, which the two lawmakers say was handed over to federal investigators by workers with the Missouri Department of Revenue. Jones said state law requires that information on who has concealed-gun permits must be kept confidential, and that any request for all that data amounts to “profiling.”
The news conference at the Carthage courthouse attracted about 30 residents, who waited even though the two lawmakers were about 45 minutes late. Several carried signs in support of Missouri’s “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” and some who declined to be identified said they believe the federal government is seeking concealed-gun information so it can take away people’s guns.
One of the sign carriers was Ben Moon, who lives near Carthage. He said there should be very few instances in which a Missouri resident should not be allowed to carry a weapon.
“They should be able to unless they’re convicted of a crime — and not just charged,” he said. “Or they would have to be adjudicated as mentally ill — not just someone who took Prozac for a few months.”
J.D. Whitledge, who owns a gun shop near Reeds and offers training that is required for residents to get a concealed-gun permit, said class numbers have more than doubled in recent months.
“I do feel like people think their rights are being threatened,” he said.
Jasper County Sheriff Randee Kaiser said he was disappointed to learn that concealed-gun information was not being kept confidential. He said applications for the permits are made with sheriffs’ offices, which complete all the steps up to issuing the permits. That is handled by the Department of Revenue.
“I’d be fine with us going ahead and actually issuing the permit,” he said.
“If it was handled by sheriffs’ departments, there would be accountability and transparency,” Schaefer said.
Jones said state law prohibits the information from being stored or shared. He said those responsible for violating the law must be held accountable, adding, “People’s Second Amendment rights are being infringed on.”
The two lawmakers, both Republicans, said actions by the Department of Revenue represent a failure by the administration of Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.
Jones said no investigation has been mounted by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, also a Democrat. He said he has called on Koster to immediately appoint an investigative commission to “determine the full extent of this scandal.”
He said the attorney general “can step in with broader powers to quickly get the answers we need,” or Senate and House committees can spend the remainder of the session conducting their own investigations.
THERE WAS APPLAUSE from the crowd in the Carthage courthouse Monday when Rep. Tim Jones and Sen. Kurt Schaefer announced that the director of the Missouri Department of Revenue had resigned.