St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Gun law opponents demand more time in appeal
By Terry Ganey
Post-Dispatch Jefferson City Bureau Chief
JEFFERSON CITY – Attorneys who successfully challenged Missouri's new concealed weapons law in St. Louis circuit court say they need more time to get ready for an appeal before the state Supreme Court.
Attorney General Jay Nixon wants the state high court to hear arguments on the case by Dec. 3. But lawyers for the challengers said today they can't be ready that soon.
"We need more time to prepare a proper and adequate representation of our clients," said Burton Newman, a lawyer based in Clayton. "We cannot meet the timetable that the attorney general and others have proposed because of the amount of resources they have."
Newman and Richard C. Miller, a lawyer from Kansas City, are not charging a fee for representing the 10 clients who challenged the concealed weapons law. St. Louis Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer ruled last week that the law was unconstitutional on one of five points raised by the challengers.
Newman said that when the case is argued before the Supreme Court, the challengers will not only defend the point that Ohmer upheld, but also advocate in favor of the four other issues that Ohmer dismissed. Newman said time is needed to prepare arguments on all five of the issues.
One of those involves the state's "Hancock amendment," the constitutional lid on government spending. The amendment requires the Legislature to pass additional appropriations to finance new activities that are required of local governments. The Legislature did not pass an appropriation for county sheriffs to issue concealed weapons permits, but authorized sheriffs to collect a $100 fee that was supposed to cover the costs.
Nixon, whose office is responsible for defending the state statute, wants the Supreme Court to expedite arguments in the case. Nixon's office filed a proposed schedule that calls for parties to file written arguments and responses with the court through the rest of this month and for the case to be argued before the seven-member court Dec. 3.
"This plan puts the plaintiffs at great disadvantage," Newman said. "We will indicate this schedule is not practical for the court decide an issue of this significance."
Newman said Nixon has resources at his command that the challengers do not have. He said that in addition to the state attorney general's office, those defending the statute include two large St. Louis law firms: Sandberg, Phoenix and von Gontard, and Thompson Coburn. Those firms represent the Bulls Eye shooting range and the National Rifle Association.
"Two attorneys in private practice don't have those resources," Newman said. "You have here complicated constitutional issues before the state's highest court and the attorney general proposes they be resolved in three weeks."
It will be up to the Supreme Court to decide the schedule for hearing the case.
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