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Missouri constitutional amendment would ban local gun laws, limit minors' access to firearms

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The Democratic stronghold of St. Louis and other cities in the Republican-leaning state of Missouri would be blocked from cracking down on guns under a newly proposed constitutional amendment.

A petition for a November 2024 vote on the proposal, filed this week, also would require parents' permission for minors to use and carry firearms. Missouri currently has no age restrictions on gun use and possession, although federal law largely prohibits minors from carrying handguns.

The proposed measure makes exceptions to the parental permission rule in case of emergencies and for members of the military. Each branch of the military requires that people be at least 17 years old in order to enlist.

Paul Berry, a suburban St. Louis Republican, filed the proposal with the secretary of state's office in response to efforts by the city to sidestep the state Legislature and impose restrictions on gun use.

“Constitutional rights should apply to all individuals of the state or the country equally, regardless of your zip code or your financial status or the style of community that you live in," Berry said.

St. Louis is annually among the cities with the nation’s highest homicide rates. City leaders have been trying for years to persuade Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature to enact stricter gun laws, but without success. The state has among the most lenient gun laws in the nation.

In February, the Missouri House voted down a bipartisan proposal that would have put limits on when and where minors may carry guns. St. Louis officials renewed calls for action after one teenager was killed and 10 others were hurt at a downtown party that devolved into a shootout on June 18. Survivors ranged from ages 15 to 19.

While Missouri lawmakers passed a law in 2014 preventing cities and counties from enacting any gun policies, another constitutional amendment filed by St. Louis advocates would work around that law by enshrining in the constitution local governments’ right to adopt their own gun rules.

Berry is challenging those proposals in court.

He needs to gather signatures from 8% of voters in six of the state's eight congressional districts to get the proposals on the ballot in 2024.

Berry, a 45-year-old businessman, also on Friday announced he is running for lieutenant governor in 2024 in a GOP primary that includes state Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder.

Berry previously lost several bids for St. Louis County executive and the state Legislature. He failed to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner in 2022.