September 26, 2016

New gun laws lead to controversial open carry march

Mayor Francis Slay made his feelings known about gun control during a press conference on Oct. 25 following an open carry march throughout downtown’s Citygarden and Gateway Arch grounds.

“We can dismiss the people who protested this morning as extremists who should not be taken seriously. I agree with that. But we have to take this law seriously,” Slay said.

The law in question is known as bill SB656. The bill allows a person with a valid concealed carry permit not be prohibited from carrying that weapon by any political subdivision (police, state legislators, etc.), whether concealed or openly carried provided the individual is not under arrest or under suspicion of criminal activity.

SB656 went into effect Oct. 11 after the legislature overrode Governor Jay Nixon’s veto on Oct. 10, according to the bill summary.

The march was organized on Facebook by Jeffry Smith, an Ohio gun activist, and drew about  50 participants, according to the event. Smith’s Facebook account has since been deactivated. Those on the walk openly carried rifles slung on their back and pistols holstered on their hips.

“The purpose of this walk is educational, and it’s also to test the meaning of Amendment 5,” Smith said in an interview with The Riverfront Times.

Amendment 5 passed with 60 percent of the vote in the primary election on Aug. 5, granting strict protection to existing firearms laws.

Prior to the march, Mayor Slay made his opinion of it known on Twitter.

“Organizers of an “Open Carry” march downtown this weekend should get our polite disinterest,” Slay tweeted.

Amnesty International’s conference took place in St. Louis the same weekend as the march and it did not escape their notice. A near equal number of people appeared to protest the gun rights event, according to Saint Louis Public Radio.

Amnesty International is a global activist group who campaigns to end abuses against human rights. Dr. Lindsey Kingston, Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies at Webster University is familiar with their work.

“The fact that the gun rally and the Amnesty International conference were held on the same weekend says a lot about freedom of expression in the United States. From a human rights perspective, it’s a wonderful thing that people can share their opinions and talk about politics without fear of government repression,” said Kingston via email correspondence.

In addition to allowing open carry in Missouri, SB656 provides structure for schools to designate from their staff an armed protection officer and lowered the concealed carry permit age limit from 21 to 19 years old.

Amongst all the controversy of America’s gun laws, global powers have also weighed in, said Kingston.

“The rights to own or carry guns aren’t recognized anywhere under international human rights law,” said Kingston. “The U.S. government was recently criticized by the United Nations for our widespread gun violence and human insecurity. Basically, our lack of gun control is being framed, increasingly around the world, as a human rights violation.”

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