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Posted Wednesday, August 10, 2011, at 1:32 PM

The right to bear arms is a right that many Americans cherish. The founding fathers thought it was so important that they enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Protecting and preserving this right for all Missourians was one of my campaign promises. And this past legislative session, we delivered on that promise by strengthening this important right for you.

Many constituents in the 163rd District are gun owners and members of the National Rifle Association. We have fond memories of the first time our grandpa took us hunting or the first time our father taught us to shoot a gun. The right to gun ownership is engrained in our rural culture, and, if we were to lose that right, part of that culture would be lost.

That is why this right is so important to many of you and why you want it preserved and protected. Here in the district, we believe that the gun rights of law abiding citizens should be strengthened. HB 294 strengthens our right to bear arms while punishing criminals who abuse that right. On July 8th, the governor signed HB 294 into law.

HB 294 is a gun reform measure that eases restrictions on law abiding citizens, but cracks-down on those who use guns in the commission of a drug crime. Prior to its passage, Missouri separated the crimes of carrying an illegal firearm from drug possession. When criminals were arrested and charged with both crimes, the firearm charges were often dropped when the defendant entered into a plea agreement.

HB 294 creates the new crime of carrying a gun while in possession of drugs. The bill specifies that this new criminal charge can't be suspended for multiple offenses. This eliminates a criminal's ability to plea down the charges and ensures longer jail time.

HB 294 also reduces the age requirement for carrying a concealed weapon. Prior to implementation, the age requirement to carry a concealed weapon was 23 years of age. This bill reduces the age to 21. Missouri was the only state in the union requiring its citizens to be 23 years old in order to receive the permit. HB 294 brings our conceal-and-carry requirement into line with the rest of the states.

Also, prior to HB 294, law abiding Missourians could only buy guns in states that border us. However, many citizens go hunting in other states, like Colorado or Montana. This leaves hunters without any options if something breaks or goes wrong with their rifle and they aren't in a border state. HB 294 will allow them to purchase a rifle in states where many Missourians hunt.

Our 2nd amendment rights are important to the citizens of the 163rd District. HB 294 strengthens your rights to possess and own firearms without sacrificing your safety. I will continue working to strengthen the gun rights of law abiding citizens in future legislative sessions.

Next week, we will conclude the discussion on bills that gained final approval.

As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House. If you would like to discuss any issue, please call 573-751-3629. You can also email me at Kent.Hampton@house.mo.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.

If you would like to receive these Capitol Reports and other correspondence via email, please send me an email requesting to be added to our list.

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State Representative Kent Hampton
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