Exactly two months after the gunman in one of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings was alleged to have used bump stocks on his weapons, a Missouri lawmaker has prefiled legislation that would ban the use of the attachments in the state.
The bill, from state Rep. Richard Brown, D-Kansas City, would create an offense for knowingly possessing, manufacturing, transporting, repairing or selling bump stocks or trigger cranks. It will be one of hundreds of bills that will be considered by state lawmakers when they reconvene for the 2018 legislative session beginning on Jan. 3.
“Violence that is perpetrated with firearms must be stopped,” Brown said at a press conference on Dec. 1, the day he filed the bill. “We need legislation that strives to prevent individuals from harming innocent people. It is critical that the power and responsibility of bearing arms does not fall into the wrong hands.”
Originally created with the idea of making it easier for people with disabilities to shoot a gun, bump stocks allow a semi-automatic rifle to mimic a fully automatic weapon by unleashing an entire large magazine in seconds. They have been around for less than a decade, with the government giving its seal of approval to selling them in 2010 after concluding that they did not violate federal law.
The device basically replaces the gun’s stock and pistol grip and causes the gun to buck back and forth, repeatedly “bumping” the trigger against the shooter’s finger. Technically, that means the finger is pulling the trigger for each round fired, keeping the weapon a legal semi-automatic.
Bump stocks were thrust into the national spotlight two months ago when Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old gunman, fired hundreds of rounds indiscriminately from his 32nd-floor room at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino on a music festival outside on Oct. 1, killing nearly 60 people and injuring hundreds more. He had 23 guns in the room; authorities found bump stocks attached to 12 of the weapons, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
‘An issue of public safety’
Brown said he favors the Second Amendment and responsible gun ownership. His bill, he said, is an attempt to address gun violence and make the state safer.
“This isn’t a Second Amendment issue,” he said in an interview with the Globe. “This is an issue of public safety.”
The U.S. Justice Department announced last week that it is reviewing whether bump stocks and similar devices should be banned. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said officials will accept input from the public as well as the gun industry as part of the review.
Other gun-related legislation that has been prefiled in Missouri include:
• A bill from Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Lake Ozark, that would allow concealed-carry permit holders to carry concealed weapons into churches and places of worship without permission. State law currently bans concealed weapons in churches “without the consent of the minister” or of those who “exercise control over the place of religious worship.”
• A bill from Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, that would prohibit some people involved in domestic violence cases from possessing a firearm.
• A bill from Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, that would further restrict firearm tracking technologies. It would make it illegal to “require a person to use or be subject to electronic firearm tracking technology or to disclose any identifiable information about the person or the person’s firearm for the purpose of using electronic firearm tracking technology.”
• A bill from Sen. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis County, that would make it illegal for a licensed firearms dealer to deliver a handgun to a purchaser without waiting at least 24 hours.
Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, said he believes the issue of prevailing wage will be one of the biggest issues to watch in the General Assembly this year. At least eight House bills, including one from White and three from Rep. Bill Lant, R-Pineville, dealing with repealing, restricting or redefining prevailing wage laws have already been filed.
A bill that would have repealed the state’s prevailing wage law for public construction projects made it through the House during the 2017 session. The proposal would have reversed a state law requiring cities, school districts and other government entities to pay more than the state’s minimum wage for public construction and maintenance projects.
Supporters of the bill said it would save the state money; opponents argued that repealing the wages, which are calculated on a county-by-county basis, would allow the state to undercut Missouri union workers.
Lant’s bills would allow counties to exempt themselves from the prevailing wage law on certain projects, exempt school construction projects from prevailing wage laws with the consent of the school board and allow schools to opt out of prevailing wage laws for projects costing less than $750,000.
He said his bills aren’t designed to do away with the idea of prevailing wage entirely; instead, they are meant to protect small or low-population counties that might struggle with paying for construction or maintenance projects.
“I’m filing them to allow the public, particularly in small-population counties, from being penalized from having to rebuild or maintain (facilities),” he said. “This could save them up to a third of the cost.”
Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, and chairman of the House Veterans Committee, has prefiled a number of bills dealing with veterans, including one that would change the laws regarding a low-income housing tax credit to give priority to veterans.
“What I would like to do is make sure we do things to help our veterans in any way we can, and part of that is to make Missouri an enticing place for them to come back to when they get out of the military,” he said.
Davis said he believes tax revenue could be a dominant issue during the session. Under current proposals from the federal government that would grant a variety of tax cuts, the state of Missouri could lose up to $1 billion in revenue, he said.
“We’re going to have to be very proactive with legislation to make sure we don’t go that far in the reverse,” said Davis, who also is a member of the House Budget Committee.
Abortion, restroom bills
Lawmakers also are set to spend another session debating abortion restrictions and whether to recognize protections for gender identity and sexual orientation.
Republicans including Sen. David Sater, of Cassville, have proposed measures that would prohibit certain selective abortions on the basis of sex, race or Down syndrome; require the use of a fetal heartbeat detection test prior to an abortion; prohibit abortions except in the case of a medical emergency; offer a constitutional amendment for the right to life; and establish the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”
Democrats have counteracted with legislation that would repeal the 72-hour waiting period prior to an abortion and require organizations that provide pregnancy-related services to provide “medically accurate” information regarding reproductive health options in order to receive state funding.
In the realm of gender identity, Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, is sponsoring for the third consecutive year a bill that would require that all public school shower rooms, locker rooms and restrooms be designated for and used by male or female students only. It would also require the “best available accommodations,” such as access to single-stall or unisex restrooms, for transgender students.
Emery has previously said that the bill is an attempt to ensure safety for all students.
“Most fathers don’t want young men coming into the bathroom with their young daughters,” he told the Globe last year. “I think others would prefer (that) girls not come into bathrooms with their sons.”
On the other side of the aisle, Schupp, a Democrat, has filed a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination could include “unlawful housing practices, denial of loans or other financial assistance, denial of membership into an organization relating to the selling or renting of dwellings, unlawful employment practices, and denial of the right to use public accommodations.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
On the lighter side
• A bill from Rep. Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, would designate July 7 as “Missouri Sliced Bread Day.” The city of Chillicothe claims that the bread slicer was put into use there in 1928, followed by the first-ever sales of sliced bread.
• A bill from Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis, would designate the pawpaw tree as the official state fruit tree of Missouri. The flowering dogwood has been Missouri’s state tree since 1955. Missouri doesn’t have an official fruit, but the Norton/Cynthiana grape was adopted as the official state grape in 2003.
• A bill from Sen. Bill Eigel, R-St. Charles, would designate the first day for firearms deer season as a holiday.