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Linn County Leader - Brookfield, MO
  • August 5 Preview: Right To Bear Arms Amendment

  • When voters go to the polls for the August 5 primary election, they will be asked to either support or reject Constitutional Amendment 5, otherwise known as the Right to Keep and Bear Arms Amendment and the Gun Rights Amendment.
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  • When voters go to the polls for the August 5 primary election, they will be asked to either support or reject Constitutional Amendment 5, otherwise known as the Right to Keep and Bear Arms Amendment and the Gun Rights Amendment.
    The language voters will see on the official ballot will read: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to include a declaration that the right to keep and bear arms is a unalienable right and the state government is obligated to uphold that right.” The official ballot language will further state: “State and local government entities should have no direct costs or savings from this proposal. However, the proposal’s passage will likely lead to increased litigation and criminal justice related costs. The total potential costs are unknown, but could be significant.”
    What voters won’t see on the ballot is the following Fair Ballot Language: “A ‘yes’  vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to expand the right to keep and bear arms to include ammunition and related accessories for such arms. This amendment also removes the language that states the right to keep and bear arms does not justify the wearing of concealed weapons. This amendment does not prevent the legislature from limiting the rights of certain felons and certain individuals adjudicated as having a mental disorder. A ‘no’ ; [sic] vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution regarding arms, ammunition, and accessories for such arms. If passed, the measure will have no impact on taxes.”
    Voters should be aware that although the ‘Fair Ballot Language’ won’t be on the ballot, it has to, by law be available at the polling place. Please ask election workers to provide the Amendment 5 Fair Ballot Language if you don’t see it posted.
    There have been two legal challenges to the official ballot language based on the contention that “it doesn’t meet state law’s legal requirement to be ‘fair and sufficient,’ because it doesn’t give voters enough information about all the changes that lawmakers want voters to pass.”
    The challenges were combined and originally heard by Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem. Judge Beetem ruled that the question of the ‘fairness and sufficiency’ of the Amendment 5 ballot language was moot (i.e., not open to question) as the challenges violated a 2003 Missouri election law requiring changes in ballot language to be made more than six weeks before the election; the challenges in question were filed three weeks before the August 5 primary election. Beetem’s finding was appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, where the trial court’s finding was upheld. Although Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey misinterpreted the moot finding as vindication of the fairness of the official ballot language, the original challenger, attorney Chuck Hatfield correctly clarified, “The Supreme Court did not rule on the issue of whether the ballot title...is fair and sufficient. However, the court determined that if voters approve Amendment 5 at the polls, the challengers to the ballot title and language have the right to challenge them again.
    Page 2 of 2 - There are practical reasons why the 2003 law forbidding ballot language changes less than six weeks before an election was passed: Referring to the six-week ‘bright line’ rule, the Supreme Court explained, “It coincides with the printing and availability of absentee ballots, which is to begin six weeks prior to an election.”
    Attorney General Chris Koster, who defended the official ballot language during both the trial court and Supreme Court hearings, stated, “We are pleased with the Court’s decision to allow this question to go forward, and will continue to defend the ballot language if challenged in the future.”

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