- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Two Republican Missouri lawmakers have proposed legislation to allow the concealed carrying of firearms on college campuses, adding to a national debate over how to prevent campus gun violence after a fatal shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

The bills pre-filed by state Sens. Brian Munzlinger of Williamstown and Bob Dixon of Springfield would lift the current ban on concealed carrying at higher education institutions. Munzlinger’s bill also would allow colleges to apply for an exemption with the state’s Department of Public Safety. To receive an exemption, college would need weapons detectors and security guards at every building entrance on campus.

Munzlinger said gun-free zones, including college campuses, are targets for criminals. He said allowing greater access to firearms could help those with concealed carry permits protect themselves.

“It’s probably time to at least for us to have the discussion” on the issue, Munzlinger said.

Texas recently became the eighth state to allow the carrying of concealed weapons on campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The change goes into effect next year, and colleges are considering how to implement it. The law contains a key concession for opponents, giving administrators the ability to mark off certain areas as gun-free.

Seven other states - Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin - now have laws or court rulings allowing the carrying of concealed weapons on some campuses, according to the NCSL. At least 15 states introduced bills to allow guns on campus in 2015 legislative sessions, and bills have been pre-filed in Florida and Wisconsin.

Kansas’s law will ensure that adults 21 and older who can carry concealed weapons can bring their guns into public buildings, unless those buildings have adequate security, such as metal detectors. The law gave state universities a four-year exemption, until July 2017.

Some Democratic lawmakers criticized the Missouri proposals.

Rep. Stacey Newman, a St. Louis Democrat, called the legislation “a horrible idea.” She said it’s politically motivated in light of the 2016 elections, and said it won’t help prevent shootings.

“More guns is not the answer,” Newman said.

Leaders at the state’s main two higher education groups - the Council on Public Higher Education and the Missouri Community College Association - said they had not yet taken a stance on the bills but generally support allowing colleges and universities to make their own decisions on gun policies.

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