Wash U Expert: Missouri lawmakers expand gun rights​

Constitutional law expert Greg Magarian weighs in on new measures

Missouri lawmakers recently overrode a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon and passed a bill allowing school districts to designate teachers or administrators as school protection officers, able to carry concealed firearms into schools. The measure also lowered the age to apply for a conceal-and-carry permit to 19 from 21 and prohibits cities from banning open carry laws.


The Supreme Court has never come close to suggesting that the Second Amendment requires those sorts of permissions, said Gregory P. Magarian, JD, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert in constitutional law.

Magarian has published about how the First Amendment destabilizes the Second Amendment.

Here he shares his thoughts about the new Missouri law, set to go into effect in October.

“Some people may believe, and I’m sure some Missouri legislators have argued, that the Second Amendment, as construed by the Supreme Court, compels these laws. I don’t believe it does.

“The Supreme Court’s recent decisions on the Second Amendment, District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, break important new ground in finding an individual right to keep and bear arms. However, those decisions only explicitly rule out sweeping gun bans by states and the federal government. They don’t decide whether various other sorts of restrictions, such as registration requirements and safety protocols, violate the Second Amendment. In fact, the court in Heller goes out of its way to suggest that many gun regulations will satisfy Second Amendment review.

“In this Missouri law, the schools provision occurs in a policy setting where federal courts have long given state authorities substantial deference. As for the open carry permission, a few academics have suggested that open carry is integral to Heller’s holding that the Second Amendment protects a right of individual self-defense. I, however, think that suggestion dubious. First of all, Heller doesn’t explain how far the self-defense rationale goes. Second, the linkage between open carry and effective self-defense is uncertain at best, and, arguably, quite weak.

“None of this means there’s anything constitutionally wrong with Missouri’s new gun permissions. My point is simply that voters should recognize these laws for what they are: affirmative policy choices of the Missouri legislature that the Second Amendment in no way compels.”