- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Opponents of a gun-rights amendment recently approved by Missouri voters filed a legal challenge Wednesday asking the state Supreme Court to overturn the election results on the grounds that it was misleading.

Constitutional Amendment 5 was approved by 61 percent of the vote in August. The ballot summery presented to voters said the measure declares “that the right to keep and bear arms is an unalienable right and that the state government is obligated to uphold that right.”

The legal challenge contends that the summary was insufficient and unfair in that it implied a new constitutional right was being created when Missourians already had the right to keep and bear arms. It contends that the summary also should have informed voters that the amendment subjects gun-control laws to strict legal scrutiny and repeals a constitutional provision allowing restrictions on concealed guns.

“The ballot language misled and deceived voters,” said Jefferson City attorney Chuck Hatfield, who filed the challenge on behalf of St. Louis Police Chief Samuel Dotson III and Rebecca Morgan, a member of the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Opponents of the constitutional amendment said they were filing the challenge both with the state Supreme Court and the Cole County Circuit Court.

The courts rejected a similar lawsuit brought by the same plaintiffs before the election, ruling that it was too close to the election for them to legally order any changes to the ballot summary.

The amendment makes gun-control restrictions subject to strict legal scrutiny, though it says the measure is not intended to bar firearms limitations for “convicted violent felons” or those determined by a court to be a danger to themselves or others because of mental illnesses or disorders.

The constitutional amendment already is starting to have consequences.

Earlier this week, the Springfield News-Leader reported that David Thomas, 63, was challenging five new charges of unlawfully possessing a firearm as a felon by asserting that the new constitutional provision bars laws restricting guns for non-violent felons. Thomas’ prior felony convictions were for driving while intoxicated and driving while his license was revoked, which he contends are non-violent crimes.

Last week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that St. Charles County prosecutor Tom Lohmar decided not to file an unlawful firearms possession charge against a man who had a previous felony property damage conviction and now is accused of animal abuse for shooting a dog. Lohmar cited the new constitutional provision.

“This is a good example of an idea that while at first glance may seem like a good one, in the end, has some very unfortunate consequences,” he told the Post-Dispatch. “What we’ve essentially done is empowered felons to have guns.”

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