ST. LOUIS – New restrictions on the open carry of guns may be coming to the City of St. Louis. Critics contend Missouri state laws won’t allow them.

When St. Louis City Hall takes on the Missouri State Capitol, most think state law trumps local law, and the Capitol wins. That may not be the case this time. The state laws have a loophole.

“It’s pretty plainly written,” said Anders Walker, a criminal law professor at the Saint Louis University School of Law.

Missouri Revised Statutes 21.750, last updated in 2014, explicitly states cities can require anyone “open carrying a firearm” to have a “valid concealed carry permit.” 

Missouri Revised Statutes 571.101 states that concealed carry permits shall be issued to anyone “at least 19 years of age.” 

St. Louis 8th Ward Alderwoman Cara Spencer’s proposed a new gun ordinance Board Bill 29. It fits snugly between those state laws, expanding the local crime of “unlawful display of a weapon.” It requires people to have a state concealed-carry permit to open carry in St. Louis.

“To have a concealed-carry permit in the State of Missouri, you have to be 19,” she said. “So, this immediately removes the open carrying of firearms for people under the age of 19.” 

“It’s certainly constitutional as written and reasonable given the level of violence in the City of St. Louis,” Walker said. 

The state law loophole appeared to be intentional, giving cities at least a slight degree of “wiggle room” to address issues with open carry. 

“What the intent behind that is, we don’t know,” Walker said. “It could be precisely what Cara Spencer wants to stop: irresponsible individuals waving guns around, scaring the public, not behaving in a rational, responsible manner.”

“We are now in a position over the last eight years where this has run rampant in the City of St. Louis,” Spencer said. “It has become well-known that a police officer can do nothing about you walking down the street with a semi-automatic weapon.” 

“The law says though law enforcement cannot disarm an individual. At best, they can write a ticket, but least that’s something,” Walker said.

He was referring to Missouri Revised Statutes 57.121, which says failure to comply with a permit requirement “shall not be a criminal offense” and that a citation (fine) shall not exceed $35. 

“How effective is this going to be?” said Alderman Rasheen Aldridge of the 8th Ward. 

He applauds Spencer’s proposal but wonders about its true impact. 

“Is this going to put our law enforcement at risk … walking down Washington Avenue at 1:00 a.m. and they see someone with a gun that’s open out?” Aldridge said. 

However, Spencer believes Missouri Revised Statutes 21.750 allows police to confiscate a violator’s gun.

It states: “In the absence of any reasonable and articulable suspicion of criminal activity, no person carrying a concealed or unconcealed firearm shall be disarmed or physically restrained by a law enforcement officer unless under arrest…”

“That gun is a very important piece of evidence in that crime,” Spencer said. “It’s my understanding that a police officer can safe-harbor that gun until the case is tried. I am at a point right now where I say we should challenge every state law that we can. We have got to do something about the guns on our streets.”

She said Kansas City passed virtually the same ordinance in 2014 and has avoided the open carry issues St. Louis is seeing.

Spencer called for community input and for the passage of a city gun bill before the end of the summer.