MU alerts raise concerns about state gun laws

Under Missouri law, rifles and handguns can be purchased from any of Columbia’s 10 firearm retailers without requiring a permit of the purchaser.

Eleven gun-related crimes and activities were reported from Aug. 2 to Sep. 9 around the city of Columbia. Four of these reports have been armed robberies taking place in various locations throughout the city.

Guns are not new around the city. Crime reports in Columbia involving firearm activity increased by 60 percent from 2008 to 2012, with the majority of them occurring in 2011.

As the population has increased, so have gun-related crimes. In 2000, Columbia had 85,986 residents, according to the Census Bureau. Now, recent reports show that population has climbed to 108,500 people.

MU Police Department Maj. Brian Weimer maintains that campus gun crime is not fluctuating drastically.

“I would not say it's increased,” Weimer said regarding the amount of gun crimes on campus.

Weimer said the firearm activity around campus only seems like it has increased “if you play the games and sensationalize it with percentages.”

Under Missouri law, rifles and handguns can be purchased from any of Columbia’s 10 firearm retailers without requiring a permit of the purchaser. A license of ownership, certifying the gun's official owner, also isn't mandatory under law. However, the right to carry a handgun in public requires certification.

Licensed firearm dealers in Missouri are required by law to conduct a background check of the purchaser, but private sellers are exempt from having to perform a preliminary background check on a gun purchaser. Missouri repealed its “permit-to-purchase” law in 2007, which required universal background checks on gun buyers. Missouri reported a 16 percent increase in gun crimes within three years after the repeal.

In 2010, the Center for American Progress reported that Missouri had “one of the worst rates of gun crime in the nation.” In the same year, Missouri had the fourth highest rate of homicides committed with a firearm in the nation with an average of 5.6 homicides per 100,000 civilians, surpassing the national average of 3.6 gun homicides per 100,000 people.

The type of weapons-offense Weimer said MUPD mostly deals with “is typically off a traffic stop” where an individual “may have a weapon in the car.”

Firearms are not allowed on campus, MU spokesperson Christian Basi said.

“MUPD offers a storage locker for any student who wishes to store their weapon on campus,” Basi said in an email. “For example, we have some students who might want to take advantage of certain hunting seasons in Missouri while they are here, but they also live on campus. This service by MUPD allows them to bring their weapon, store it legally on campus and then retrieve it when they are planning on leaving campus.”

According to University of Missouri System regulations, firearms are only allowed on campus if they are apart of a regularly approved college program or in possession of university employees in the line of duty.

Despite the strict gun policies on campus that clash with Missouri's lenient firearm laws, according to the Center for American Progress, 85 percent of Missouri's residents favored background checks on gun purchasers.

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