Gun bill is off target

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

We stand behind the Missouri Press Association and newspapers across the state in urging Governor Jay Nixon to veto a gun bill passed by Missouri lawmakers during the last legislative session.

The bill seems to be an emotional reaction to unfounded fears that the federal government is plotting to take guns away from Missouri citizens, but that claim would be the subject of another editorial, which I don't intend to write .

Our primary problem with the bill lies in a provision that would infringe on the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which in our opinion is as disturbing as perceived threats to a citizen's right to bear arms.

The bill could potentially threaten a newspaper's ability to publish news stories about crimes involving guns. The provision in question reads, "No person or entity shall publish the name, address or other identifying information of any individual who owns a firearm or who is an applicant for or holder of any license, certificate, permit or endorsement, which allows such individual to own, acquire, possess or carry a firearm." Entities, such as newspapers, that publish such information could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.

Whether or not newspapers would actually be charged under this law is unknown but passing a bill with such language included is dangerous. In attempting to protect citizens' Second Amendment rights, Missouri legislators appear to be willing to violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Missouri Constitution to do so.

We are asking Governor Nixon to veto the bill, and in turn, requesting that legislators refrain from overriding the veto and craft another gun bill for the next session without unconstitutional language that would limit freedom of the press .

Lisa Schlichtman