Blunt, McCaskill disagree on gun control legislation

Meanwhile, the Missouri Senate has focused on protecting Second Amendment rights.

Senior Meagan Wolters shoots during Ladies Night in January at Target Masters in Columbia, Mo. Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have differing opinions on the bipartisan gun control legislation the Senate voted to debate last week. Maneater File Photo

Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have conflicting opinions on the bipartisan gun control legislation the Senate voted to debate last week.

Following a cloture vote that prevented a filibuster, Blunt criticized the bill, saying the Senate should focus on mental health legislation instead of attempting to expand background check requirements for gun buyers.

“We all agree that we should keep guns out of the hands of criminals, but Sen. Reid’s bill would not prevent tragedies like those that took place in Newtown, Aurora or Tucson,” Blunt said in a news release. “Instead, this bill would blatantly restrict Americans’ Second Amendment rights, place unreasonable burdens on law-abiding citizens and would do little to nothing to improve public safety.”

Blunt said he supported strengthening mental health programs in lieu of strengthening gun control laws.

“In the wake of this tragedy, there’s no doubt that we need a serious and thoughtful national discussion about preventing this kind of senseless violence and protecting our children in their schools,” Blunt wrote in an op-ed in December. “I believe that should include a discussion about finding ways to spend federal dollars more wisely when it comes to treating and identifying people who are mentally ill.”

McCaskill said she believes the legislation could be agreeable for Missourians and called the bill’s proposals “common sense steps.”

“We love the Second Amendment in Missouri,” McCaskill said. “Guns were an important part of my upbringing, so I want to be really careful that we don’t take steps that deny people the opportunity to buy weapons. On the other hand, we’ve got to figure out a way to do everything we can to prevent the slaughter of young children."

At the state level, the Missouri House of Representatives considered a bill that would make introducing gun control legislation a felony for lawmakers.

Sponsor Rep. Mike Leara, R-St. Louis, said he considered his bill to be more of a statement than a serious piece of legislation.

“I have no illusions about the bill making it through the legislative process, but I want it to be clear that the Missouri House will stand in defense of the people’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” Leara said in a statement.

Earlier, Missouri legislators introduced a bill that would permit teachers and administrators to carry concealed weapons on campus. Under Missouri law, schools are included in the list of places where concealed carry permit holders cannot carry their weapons. The bill has since stalled in the legislature.

UM System President Timothy Wolfe did not offer an opinion on the bill when it was introduced but recognized that the violence in Newtown would spur legislation and discussion.

“It is only to be expected that in the coming weeks and months there will be numerous thoughts and proposals at both the state and federal levels on how to stem violence in our schools and college campuses," Wolfe said in a statement in December.

In 2009, the Missouri House passed a bill which would have allowed concealed carry permit holders to carry guns on campus. Then-UM System President Gary Forsee, the MU Police Department and the Missouri Students Association all opposed the bill.

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