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Missouri Voters Expand Constitutional Gun Rights

More than six in 10 voters approved a constitutional amendment pertaining to the right to bear arms and own ammunition and gun-related accessories.

ELECTION 2014: This article is part of our coverage of ballot measures to watch.

More than six in 10 Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment in the August primary that expands upon the state's existing protections for gun owners. Now the right to bear arms also includes protections for ammunition and gun-related accessories.

The change removed language in the state constitution that implied that the right to carry concealed firearms,  which was already legal under a Missouri statute, was a limited right. 

With all the precincts having reported by 10 a.m. Aug. 6, the measure had swept most parts of the state, with 61 percent of recorded votes favoring the amendment. Some exceptions included St. Lous county, St. Louis city and Kansas City, where a combined 62 percent of voters cast ballots against the measure. 

The proposed amendment had broad support from the legislature, led by Republicans, and Chris Koster, the Democratic state attorney general. The measure's primary sponsor in the legislature, state Sen. Kurt Schafer, told the local politics website PoliticMo that the amendment was necessary to guard against government departments sharing lists of conceal-carry permit holders with the federal government. The legislature had found that the state's revenue department privately sent lists to the U.S. Social Security Administration in 2011 and 2013 for an investigation of potential fraud committed by permit holders. 

The ballot measure brought together unlikely allies, with Democrats in the legislature and libertarians from the state's Constitution Party opposing the amendment, though for different reasons. Democrats, especially those representing urban areas, said the higher level of legal protections would make it harder to prosecute gun crimes and might invalidate local gun laws. Libertarians complained that the measure had confusing language that could infringe on people's rights, especially those with a mental illness. (The amendment clarifies that the extra legal protections do not extend to convicted felons or people determined by the courts to be mentally ill and dangerous to themselves or others.) 

The ballot measure did warn voters that the amendment may invite litigation costs to the state. A similar amendment passed in 2012 in Louisiana has prompted legal challenges to state gun laws and local criminal laws.

*This story has been updated.

J.B. Wogan is a Governing staff writer.
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