MO House passes bill allowing guns on buses, in churches and synagogues

The Missouri House passed a bill Monday allowing guns to be carried on public buses and inside churches and other places of worship, chipping away at the list of places where guns are prohibited even with a concealed carry permit.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schnelting, a St. Charles Republican, would allow people with concealed carry permits to have guns on public transit. The bill includes an amendment proposed by Rep. Ben Baker, a Neosho Republican, that would also allow people with permits to carry guns in churches and other places of worship. Churches could still prohibit guns by placing signage that states firearms are not allowed.

“The reality is, people are already carrying guns on public transit,” Schnelting said Monday. “I stand by the Constitution. I stand by my constituents. And I stand by the would be victims and the victims who simply want to be able to defend themselves against perpetrators of violence and crime.”

The bill passed the House on a vote of 102-45 and now heads to the Senate. The vote came just days after 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was shot twice and critically wounded in Kansas City after going to the wrong house to pick up his siblings on April 13. The shooting sparked national outrage and a protest this week.

“We haven’t even spent time today acknowledging the gun violence that happened about 10 miles from my own house, which is that a child was gunned down for ringing a doorbell,” state Rep. Ashley Aune, a Kansas City Democrat, said on the floor Monday. “We fight so hard in this room for more guns in more places and we forget about the actual lives lost and I really encourage you all to consider that while you’re protecting the Second Amendment.”

Democrats have long been against legislation that broadens Missouri’s gun laws, and said the bill would exacerbate gun violence issues in the state’s urban areas.

Kansas City had 171 killings in 2022, which was the second-deadliest year to date, the first being 2020. Recent incidents on public transit include a 2020 shooting where three people, including a police officer and bus driver, were wounded on a RideKC bus by a suspect in an alleged robbery. Another man was shot in 2017 on a RideKC bus in downtown Kansas City after an altercation.

“I’m probably the only person in this body who rides the bus on a somewhat regular basis,” said state Rep. Richard Brown, a Kansas City Democrat. “Having a gun on public transit does not make people feel safe.”

Doug Alpert, the rabbi at Kansas City-based Congregation Kol Ami, said there is no reason to have guns in places of worship, and the bill would only increase the likelihood of shootings in places like synagogues, which already face threats and violence.

In 2014, three people were killed outside of the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park when anti-semite Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. fatally shot them.

“We’ve all had to raise our security profile and it’s something that I would rather not do for my synagogue, but I have to do it,” Alpert said. “And this would only make it worse.”

Supporters of the bill pointed to the need to protect themselves from potential criminals on buses.

William Bland, a member of the Western Missouri Shooters Alliance, told The Star Monday that concealed carry permit holders are among the most law abiding citizens, and the inability to carry a gun on a bus makes people more vulnerable.

“We have gone through so much in order to obtain that permit,” Bland said. “We’re very careful about it. We’ve been trained, so I don’t see the opposition.”

Representatives and lobbyists from organizations and transit associations in the major cities in Missouri – Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield and Jefferson City – all testified against the bill.

Kimberly Cella, the executive director of the Missouri Public Transit Association, previously told The Star that allowing guns on public transit would seriously jeopardize federal funding for non-profit transit providers like OATS Transit and SMTS, Inc.

Those providers, Cella said, have private contracts and receive federal funding, and there are requirements in those contracts that prohibit guns on transit. The bill would jeopardize those contracts and the matched federal funding, Cella said.

Both St. Louis and Kansas City’s transit systems are bi-state operations governed by a federal compact that prohibits guns on public transit, and Cella said it is her understanding that that compact would supersede the bill and not apply to transit in those cities.