Lawmakers today granted most Missourians the right to carry concealed guns, overriding a veto by Gov. Bob Holden (D) and reversing the outcome of a statewide election on the issue four years ago.
Republican state Sen. Jon Dolan, an Army public affairs officer, cast the deciding vote after being granted a last-minute request for military leave from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Senate's 23 to 10 vote to override the veto barely met the required two-thirds majority. The House voted 115 to 43 Wednesday to override Holden's veto.
Missouri becomes the 45th state to allow concealed guns, although nine sharply restrict permits, according to the National Rifle Association.
The gun bill would allow Missourians 23 and older to apply to their county sheriffs for a permit to carry concealed guns. Applicants would have to meet several qualifications, and concealed weapons would be banned from police stations, schools, churches and day-care centers.
The fight to legalize concealed weapons has been long and bitter in Missouri. Lawmakers had been rebuffed for years by Gov. Mel Carnahan (D) when they finally agreed to put the issue to a statewide vote in 1999. The ballot measure -- the first ever in the nation on the issue -- was rejected by 52 percent of the voters, with strong urban opposition overcoming rural support.
Legislators passed a new bill this May that was vetoed by Holden, who cited the 1999 election as his reason.
"This is a complete disregard of the citizens of the state of Missouri," said Senate Minority Floor Leader Ken Jacob, a Democrat, as the Republican-led Senate overrode Holden's veto.
But gun rights advocates said this year's bill is far more restrictive than the 1999 measure -- setting the highest minimum age in the nation and requiring much more extensive firearms marksmanship and safety training, among other things.