HB 875 is “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent history,” according to the Institute for Legislative Action, the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association. Among other things cited is the proposed removal of fingerprinting for renewal of weapons carry licenses and barring the state from creating and maintaining a database of license holders.
But none of the proposals potentially could touch more people than the ones relating to weapons in churches and bars. On that point, the previous column mistakenly cited a lengthy list of weapons, ranging from guns to knives and clubs, that could be carried into churches and bars. However, that list apparently applies to weapons banned from schools as does existing law. So the bill won’t legalize guns and bowie knives or straight-edged razors in churches and bars.
But HB 875 specifically deletes “places of worship” and bars from places where “a person shall be guilty of carrying a weapon or long gun in an unauthorized location and shall be punished as for a misdemeanor when he or she carries a weapon or long gun” in those places. The unauthorized locations remaining on the list are: a government building (with exceptions), a courthouse, and a jail or prison.
The caveat is that the bill states “private property owners or persons in legal control of private property ... shall have the right to exclude or eject a person who is in possession of a weapon or long gun on their private property.” That changes the language from “the right to forbid” to “the right to exclude or eject,” presumably giving the property owner the specific legal right to remove an armed person from the premises.
The point made by a reader is that the new law will “give churches and bar owners back their private property rights, enabling them to choose whether or not to permit any type of weapons that are carried by (license) holders.” But apparently, under the bill, the burden is on the church or bar to exclude or reject armed persons. So churches will have to put up signs? Such as, “Please, no weapons allowed in our worship services.” Or maybe like the Old West: “Please, check your weapons in the foyer.” Or make announcements from the pulpit: “If you are armed, will you please go to the foyer and check your weapon?” Sort of like reminding worshipers to mute their cell phones.
Another change proposed by HB 875 strikes out the provision that anyone convicted of pointing or aiming a gun or pistol, loaded or unloaded, intentionally and without legal justification is guilty of a misdemeanor. And the bill would allow weapons licenses to be issued to active duty or honorably discharged service members at least 18 years of age.
HB 875 needs a lot more public discussion.