In my last blog post I discussed what the United States Constitution says about the Right to Bear Arms. Justice Scalia in the District of Columbia v Heller case, traced these rights back to the “English Declaration of Rights” of 1688 which guarantee the rights of Englishmen to bear arms as protection from the tyranny of the English government. Heller discusses the right of self-defense and other reasons for the 2nd Amendment. This time I will discuss the laws on this subject if you reside in Missouri. First of all, we must recognize that the rights of anyone in Missouri or any other state relating to “bearing arms” is protected by the 2nd Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. Also, we all are subject to the federal laws regulating firearms. Even so, the laws relating to this subject vary significantly depending on where you live.
The Missouri Constitution is much more specific in describing the right to keep and bear arms than the 2nd Amendment. Article 1, Section 23 of the Missouri Constitution provides:
That the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms, ammunition, and accessories typical to the normal function of such arms, in defense of his home, person, family and property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned. The rights guaranteed by this section shall be unalienable. Any restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny and the state of Missouri shall be obligated to uphold these rights and shall under no circumstances decline to protect against their infringement. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the general assembly from enacting general laws which limit the rights of convicted violent felons or those adjudicated by a court to be a danger to self or others as result of a mental disorder or mental infirmity.
Similar to the U. S. Constitution’s provision, the right to keep and bear arms is unalienable, meaning the right cannot be taken away or denied. The Missouri Constitution includes protection for ammunition and accessories “typical to the normal function of such arms”. The “strict scrutiny” language in the Missouri Constitution, which is not included in the U. S. Constitution, requires any court who is interpreting a statute or regulation enacted by our government to give such laws a narrow interpretation if the statutes or regulation impact the right to keep and bear arms. The Missouri Constitution specifically allows restrictions on rights to keep and bear arms relating to violent felons or those adjudicated by a court to be a danger to self or others as result of a mental disorder or mental infirmity.
As I indicated before the laws relating to acquiring and possessing firearms vary greatly from state to state. The following information applies to Missouri only. Missouri law does not require a license to own a firearm, nor are you required to register a firearm. Missouri has no minimum age for possessing firearms, but Federal law has a minimum age of 18 for possession of a handgun. There is no minimum age for possession of a long gun in Missouri. “Open carry” of firearms is allowed in Missouri, although cities have the right to restrict open carry for anyone without a Carrying a Concealed Weapon Permit. If a person does have a CCW Permit they are entitled to open carry anywhere that is not on the prohibited places list. It is against Missouri law to display a weapon in and angry or threatening manner.
If you purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer, the dealer must keep information about the transaction and must do the National Instant Criminal Background Check on you prior to the sale. Under Federal law you cannot buy or possess a firearm if you:
- Have been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
- Are a fugitive from justice;
- Are an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act, codified at 21 U.S.C. § 802);
- Have been adjudicated as a mental defective or have been committed to any mental institution;
- Are an illegal alien;
- Have been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
- Have renounced your United States citizenship;
- Are subject to a court order restraining you from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of the intimate partner; or
- Have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
Under Federal law sellers of firearms are generally required to be licensed to do so. There is an exception to this rule for those who make occasional sales, exchanges or purchases or sells all or part of personal collection of firearms.
In my future blogs, I will discuss Missouri’s Constitutional Carry law and Missouri Carrying a Concealed Weapon Permit. I will also report on a recent scientific study on whether there is a relationship of liberalization of state firearm carry legislation over the last 30 years and the rates of homicides or other violent crime.