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Gun owners must turn in assault weapons or face felony charge under proposed bill

Missouri lawmakers, including the sponsor, doubt the bill will become law

February 15, 2013|Mary Moloney, KSPR News Reporter | mmoloney@kspr.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- One Missouri lawmaker is sponsoring a bill that would make assault weapons illegal.

Rep. Rory Ellinger, of University City, filed a bill this week that would require gun owners to give up their semi-automatic weapons within 90 days of the measure's passage. Failure to surrender an assault weapon would result in a felony charge.

"These assault weapons have no place in a civilized society except when we have an outside threat and that's what we have the military for," said Rory Ellinger. "I don't think we have to have all these guns sitting around that countless times have lead to terrible disasters."It's generating a panic that has no justification."

Many gun owners contend the potential legislation does nothing to stop the violence.

"Instead of bringing people together and trying to develop a real dialogue, it's just the opposite. It's provoking. And I think it's not going to accomplish anything but cause hard feelings," detailed Christian County Sheriff Joey Kyle. "It's generating a panic that has no justification."

Some also question the constitutionality of the bill under the second amendment.

"Although there is a right to keep and bear arms, it does not mean that there is a right to posses any kind of weapon anywhere anytime. It is not an absolute right. In fact, very few of our fundamental liberties are absolute," explained Missouri State University Professor Kenyon Bunch. "The court has expressly said it's not an absolute right. It does not mean that I can have any weapon I want, take it anywhere I want. And so clearly there are going to be limits on this right."

Limits such as preventing felons on the mentally ill from purchasing weapons.

Under Missouri House bill 545, it would also be illegal to manufacture or import such weapons in the state. The measure would exempt state and federal law enforcement from the ban.

"Frankly, I don't think it's got a chance to pass," said Sheriff Kyle. "It's a means some politicians are trying to create disharmony in the country. Rather than trying to push legislation that might bring us together to find an actual solution to some of these problems, they are doing just the opposite."

The bill has not been referred to a House committee and the sponsor admits it has very little chance of becoming law in the Republican-led Legislature.

"We don't have to agree on everything about this but we should agree it's time to do something," said Ellinger. "Stop the slaughter that's going on in America."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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