By Eli Yokley
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —
The Missouri Senate passed legislation this week that would strip some funding for the Missouri Department of Revenue, as part of continuing outrage by lawmakers over the department’s scanning of personal documents relating to concealed-carry weapon permits.
The budget proposal, carried by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, would cut more than $20 million from the department’s funding that involves producing driver’s licenses and carrying out administrative functions. Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, supported the bill, which is now headed to a conference committee between the two chambers of the General Assembly.
Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar, who made headlines in December for his own legislation aimed at gun-rights supporters that would have allowed educators to carry concealed guns in the classroom, said he is in favor of the Senate’s plan.
“I fully support the Senate’s decision to move CCW permits to the county sheriffs,” he said. “I feel sheriffs are already doing the background checks and issuing the slip for people to bring to the local license office. This will streamline the process, making it more efficient and more secure.”
Jasper County Sheriff Randee Kaiser said he, too, is on board with the proposal.
“For the sake of citizens who want to obtain a permit, it makes it easier for them, so I’m all for that,” Kaiser said. “And as far as the Sheriff’s Department is concerned, we already do about 90 percent of the entire process. I don’t see this as being a substantial burden. The citizens would benefit from the fact that they could do it all from one location.”
Kaiser joined House Speaker Tim Jones in Carthage earlier this month when Jones visited the area to tout his outrage with the Revenue Department’s document scanning.
The outrage, led by Republicans, began in March when a Stoddard County resident filed suit against his local fee office for not giving him his concealed-gun permit after he refused to allow the office to scan his personal documents. The outrage sparked numerous proposals in the Legislature to block the department from scanning the documents.
Gov. Jay Nixon announced earlier this month that the department would end its document scanning practice for gun permits. Additionally, Nixon’s most recent director of the Department of Revenue — who was brought on two days after the new procedures were introduced — resigned.
Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, said he believes that the gun permits should be administered by law enforcement, not the Department of Revenue, anyway.
“I do believe that CCW permits should be a function of local law enforcement rather than the Department of Revenue, which is responsible for collecting taxes and administering the license offices,” he said. “Law enforcement can administer the program more effectively and efficiently.”
GUN PERMITS will be a part of the pending budget debate, as lawmakers consider the nearly $24 billion operating budget in the coming weeks. Legislators from both chambers are expected to be named to a conference committee soon, and both chambers would have to approve the changes. The adjustments to the Department of Revenue’s funding were not part of the original House budget.