Campus gun bill moves forward with concessions

Jon Swedien

Dorm rooms would be off limits for firearms under the latest version of a proposed law aimed at allowing concealed weapons on the campuses of Missouri's public universities.

Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa

Seeking to address concerns raised by university officials — including Missouri State President Clif Smart — Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa, added the exemption to a bill he is sponsoring that would allow concealed weapons to be carried in many areas on college campuses.

"They were concerned about alcohol use and making sure (guns) were safely stored while in the dorms. So we exempted dorm rooms," Taylor said before a House panel Thursday. Boardrooms and disciplinary meetings are among the other areas where guns could be prohibited.

The House Committee on Emerging Issues approved the new version of the bill on an 8-3 vote. A similar bill, filed by Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, mirrored the original version of Taylor's proposal. Dixon's bill was heard by a Senate panel in January but has not been taken up by the full body.

At the time, MSU's Smart testified that the bill "would make our campus less safe, not more safe."

Taylor said that, under the current version of his proposal, students would be able to carry concealed guns in public areas of a dormitory, like a lounge.

He said students who want to carry guns on campus would likely live off campus, because they would not be allowed to store their weapons in a dormitory. The law would require universities to allow students who want to carry concealed weapons to live off campus regardless of their age or progress (many universities require first-year students to live on campus). Students who prefer to live in the dorms could store their guns in their vehicles, Taylor said.

Missouri State University officials appreciate the changes, said Ryan DeBoef, assistant to the president for governmental relations.

"We're probably never going to see perfectly eye-to-eye on the bill, but we appreciate Representative Taylor's willingness to work with us," DeBoef said.

Taylor said he also pushed back the proposed law's start date, from this year to Aug. 1, 2017.

In addition to dorm rooms, the latest version of Taylor's bill would allow guns to be excluded from:

• K-12 classrooms

• Child care facilities

• Research laboratories

• Large sporting events

• Boardrooms

• Disciplinary hearings.

Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, D-Kansas City, criticized the bill and said it doesn't make sense to exempt some parts of a university campus and not others.

"If it's good for the lobby and the entryway and communal area, I don't understand why it's not good everywhere else. And I think the reason is people have determined that having guns in places like hospitals, research labs and dorms and K-12 facilities and child care facilities is a stupid idea," LaFaver said. "Just as dumb as it is to have (guns) on college campuses."

Taylor, Dixon and other lawmakers in support of the bill have said allowing students to carry guns on campus will help protect them in the event of a mass shooting or other violent scenario.

The same House panel that heard Taylor's bill also heard a bill that would allow Missourians to carry concealed weapons on buses and other means of public transportation. The panel did not take action on that bill Thursday, but could be voted on during the panel's hearing Monday.