Missourians won’t be allowed to carry a concealed weapon into the Capitol — unless they have a concealed-carry weapons permit — under a modified administrative rule slated to go into effect May 30.
The Associated Press reported in January that a proposal from Gov. Mike Parson’s administration modifying the presence of weapons in the Missouri state Capitol had drawn more than four dozen comments — all of them opposed to it.
One comment reacting to the proposal said: “At the present time, visitors are not permitted to bring knives into the Capitol building. Balloons are not allowed either. What is the rationale for allowing firearms, the most deadly weapons of all, on the property?”
Another comment said: “Many school groups visit the Capitol. Children and teachers should not be subjected to people with firearms roaming the building.”
And a third comment reported in the January AP story noted Capitol visitors already must go through metal detectors to enter the building, then asked: “So why would people also need to carry firearms for safety when all visitors would already be screened?”
However, no changes have been made to the rule after the negative comments were received, and the proposed rule makes only minor modifications to the existing rule.
Proposed changes to the Code of State Regulations are published in The Missouri Register and have a public comment period before they can go into effect.
Two years ago, then-Gov. Eric Greitens temporarily barred most visitors and employees from bringing concealed weapons into the building. However, Greitens modified that ban after only a month, in the face of conservative opposition.
Mike O’Connell, spokesman for the state Public Safety Department, which includes the Capitol Police, told the News Tribune last week that “folks with a (concealed weapon) — if they have a permit, (now) can bring the weapon into the Capitol.”
And that wouldn’t change under the modified rule.
In the Nov. 15, 2018, edition of The Missouri Register, the Office of Administration said the proposed rules change was needed “to address changes in state law and to allow authorized individuals picking up deposits from state agencies to carry weapons based on comments received.”
The secretary of state’s office said the final version of the rule will be published in the April 15 edition of the register, then become effective May 30.
As it cleared the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules last month, the new rule says: “Carrying a firearm or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use into the Capitol Building and grounds or any other public building or grounds is prohibited, except that holders of a valid concealed carry permit may carry weapons into the Capitol Building and grounds to the extent allowed by sections 571.107 and 571.215, RSMo.”
And the state law limits where those weapons can be taken.
Among the state law’s provisions, even people who have a concealed carry permit may not take their weapons into any meeting of the General Assembly or any committee of the General Assembly — except that a senator, representative, legislative employee, or any statewide elected official and his or her employees (who have a valid permit or endorsement) are allowed to keep that weapon in the Capitol.
The new rule also continues the current exemptions for “state and federal law enforcement officers, peace officers, probation and parole officers, wardens and superintendents of prisons or penitentiaries, members of the armed forces and National Guard, and persons vested with judicial authority by the state or federal court.”
Outside of the Capitol and other state buildings, the state law also says people are not to take concealed weapons — even if they have a permit — into:
Any meeting of the governing body of a unit of local government — except that a member of that body is allowed to keep that weapon at a meeting of the body.
Any police, sheriff, or Highway Patrol office or station, without the consent of the chief law enforcement officer in charge of that office or station.
Within 25 feet of any polling place on any election day.
The facility of any adult or juvenile detention or correctional institution, prison or jail.
Any establishment licensed to dispense intoxicating liquor for consumption on the premises, which portion is primarily devoted to that purpose, without the consent of the owner or manager [and this restriction doesn’t apply “to any bona fide restaurant open to the general public having dining facilities for (at least 50) persons and that receives at least 51 percent of its gross annual income from the dining facilities by the sale of food”].
The law generally allows a concealed weapon in a vehicle parked near the prohibited areas — as long as the weapon stays in the vehicle and isn’t used in any threatening manner.
Law enforcement officers are allowed to carry weapons into the Capitol and other state buildings and grounds.
And the rule changes make it clear that employees of outside vendors — such as someone servicing an ATM or taking money from a state facility to a bank or other location — may carry a weapon into state facilities, as long as the state has been notified in advance.
The rule change addressed other policies, in addition to weapons.
The new rule added a new section generally prohibiting the use of “unmanned aircraft.”
That part of the new rule says: “(A) Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on the Capitol Building and grounds, Carnahan Memorial Garden, and other public buildings and grounds is prohibited except as pre-approved in writing by the director (of Facilities Management, Design and Construction).
“(B) Operators given permission by the director to operate an unmanned aircraft on state property identified above shall comply with all restrictions imposed by the director and all applicable state and federal laws and regulations, including, but not limited to, the regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration. This includes notifying and obtaining approval from all applicable state and federal entities, airports, air traffic control facilities, and helipads.”
The rule also adds “vaping, or the use of tobacco products,” to the no-smoking regulations, “except in those areas that have specifically been designated as ‘smoking area’ or in a private vehicle.”