Missouri voters will consider strengthening state constitutional right to bear arms


(Photo credit: Oleg Volk.)

The proposal, which passed the Missouri Senate 23 to 8 and the Missouri House 122 to 31, would change the state Constitution to read (additions marked in bold, deletions marked with strikeout):

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; but this shall not justify the wearing of concealed weapons. 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.

If enacted, this would make Missouri the second state — after Louisiana — to provide for “strict scrutiny” of gun restrictions, generally thought to be the strongest level of protection (though even so not absolute, see, e.g., this Louisiana Supreme Court decision). There is a challenge pending to the ballot summary for the measure, which will be heard by the Missouri Supreme Court on July 14. The current ballot summary, approved by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster on June 30, reads,

A “yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to expand the right to keep and bear arms to include ammunition and related accessories for such arms. This amendment also removes the language that states the right to keep and bear arms does not justify the wearing of concealed weapons. This amendment does not prevent the legislature from limiting the rights of certain felons and certain individuals adjudicated as having a mental disorder.

A “no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution regarding arms, ammunition, and accessories for such arms.

UPDATE: The briefs of those who are challenging the statement, the briefs of those who are defending the statement, and the reply briefs are all available here.

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.
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