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Missouri Bill Could Outlaw Guns For Homeschool Families, Legal Experts Warn | Lake Of The Ozarks Politics & Government


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Legal experts are sounding the alarm about one of the highest-profile pieces of legislation in Missouri, warning it could seriously violate the 2nd Amendment rights of homeschool families.

The bill — Senate Bill 727 — is ostensibly designed to give more choices for Missouri families on how they educate their children: it’s often referred to as the “School Choice Bill.” But critics say the way the bill is written could end up making it a felony to keep guns in the home, for any family that homeschools. 

Activist James Holderman first discovered it.

Holderman was part of a group of homeschool dads who convened at the Missouri Capitol building on April 3 to voice their concerns about the bill. At the time, those men and the growing grassroots opposition they represented were focused on how the bill could expose homeschool families to future regulation by state entities such as the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). They met with nearly 20 state reps throughout the day to voice those concerns.

But a conversation with then-bill-handler Rep. Bishop Davidson in the capitol corridors sent Holderman on a deep dive into the bill. When he emerged, he had discovered what could be SB 727’s critical flaw: he says it appears to prohibit homeschoolers from having guns in their homes.

Since Holderman raised the concern, legal experts have concurred, and opposition to the bill has begun to increase.

Critically for opponents, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which had previously supported the bill, issued an action alert to its Missouri members this week. In it, HSLDA urged its Missouri members to contact their elected representatives and ask them to oppose SB 727: lock, stock, and barrel. 

“HSLDA and Families for Home Education have worked together to write an amendment that would eliminate the risk of such a result,” the association said. “So far, lawmakers have failed to insert the amendment into the bill.”

The full text of the alert is here: https://hslda.org/legal/legislation

Another Missouri homeschool activist who attended the Dad’s Day on April 3, Jeremy Jacobs, told LakeExpo a small group recently returned to the Capitol to inform lawmakers of HSLDA’s opposition.

“A team of 4 people went into every Republican office to deliver a paper copy of the email that HSLDA sent out and discuss our reasons for opposition to the bill,” he said. “About half of the offices I went into were not aware of the HSLDA change, but they were clearly exhausted from the massive amount of calls and emails they were getting from the public in opposition to the bill, with almost no one contacting in support. One office where the representative is already against SB 727 told me that the public is clearly against this bill, but the leadership continues to apply heavy pressure to the members to pass the bill.”

The ‘Drafting Error’

The 2nd Amendment concern comes from how the bill would slightly alter the definition of “homeschool.”

MOFirst.org explained the problem:

It is illegal to carry a firearm into any school. 

https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=571.030&bid=54290&hl=

571.030.1.  A person commits the offense of unlawful use of weapons, except as otherwise provided by sections 571.101 to 571.121, if he or she knowingly:  (10)  Carries a firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use into any school, onto any school bus, or onto the premises of any function or activity sponsored or sanctioned by school officials or the district school board; or… 

The penalty would be a Class E Felony if the firearm is loaded. 571.030.3.

The old definition of “home school” only applied to a narrow range of statutes. 

https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=167.031&bid=8299&hl=home+school%u2044

167.031.2.(1)  As used in sections 167.031 to 167.071, a “home school” is a school, whether incorporated or unincorporated, that…:

The new definition of “home school” in SB 727 applies to all of “state law,” including 571.030. 

https://www.senate.mo.gov/24info/pdf-bill/perf/SB727.pdf

167.012. 1. For purposes of state law, a “home school” is a school, whether incorporated or unincorporated, that:…

Some legal experts agree there’s a concern. The HSLDA’s opposition is significant. And in a commentary published on April 11, Missouri attorney Dave Roland voiced the same concerns. Roland is the Director of Litigation and co-founder of the Freedom Center of Missouri, and he had a role in drafting Missouri’s Second Amendment Protection Act (SAPA).

However, the bill’s defenders are firing back, arguing the 2nd Amendment concerns are a stretch.

Sen. Eric Burlison, Rep. Doug Richey, Rep. Josh Hurlbert, and Rep. Ben Baker have all taken to X to blast the bill’s detractors.

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Even the Missouri Firearms Coalition has said they think the concerns are overblown.

“While pg. 85, line 1 may be alarming to homeschooling parents who own firearms, we do not believe that concern is merited,” MOFC Political Director Aaron Dorr wrote. “RSMo 571.030, which bans guns on school property, has always been interpreted to be applicable to public schools with its references to ‘school buses,’ ‘school officials,’ and ‘district school boards.’ SB-727 doesn’t change that… We believe claims that the courts will suddenly agree to ban guns in homeschool situations are not substantial.” 

But in his April 11 commentary, Roland said that those who downplay the 2nd Amendment threat are misjudging Missouri courts’ instincts. Roland argues the threat is real because, “Missouri courts consistently interpret legal provisions in ways that are hostile to the right to keep and bear arms.”

An excerpt from Roland’s commentary is below:

Some, such as my friend Marc Ellinger, have explained that if Missouri courts apply the usual rules of interpretation and give proper effect to the protections Article I, section 23 of the Missouri Constitution, the phrasing of SB727 should not pose any risk to the right to keep and bear arms. I wish to be clear that I do not disagree with Mr. Ellinger’s statements about how courts should interpret the various statutes and constitutional provisions that are relevant to this proposed bill. In an ideal world, I would likely agree with his assessment. But the past decade, in which I have both drafted and argued cases in support of Missouri’s protections for the right to keep and bear arms, has repeatedly shown that even where statutes or constitutional provisions are carefully crafted to protect citizens’ right to keep and bear arms, Missouri courts routinely find ways of interpreting those provisions in ways that are hostile to this constitutional right. Simply put, even if the legislature has the best of intentions when it comes to securing this right, it would be exceedingly unwise to make any statutory changes that could even conceivably be read as expanding governmental authority to restrict law-abiding citizens’ possession and use of firearms.

Gail Griswold, former Camdenton R-III School District Board Of Education President and a grassroots political activist who also opposes SB 727, applauded Roland’s stance. She also voiced another concern: that the bill has been rushed to a vote and has grown to be nearly 14 times as long as the original version.

“[Senator Andrew] Koenig’s SB 727 started out originally as a 12 page bill and quickly grew to 167 pages,” she said. “It is an example of poor policy making and rushed lawmaking. The legislators are being forced to push this through by the school choice lobby without really absorbing what is hiding in the details. I am thankful for opinion from Missouri Constitutional Attorney Dave Roland on the potential unforeseen issues that could lead to unpredictable court rulings, as well as HSLDA and FHE for reversing their neutral stance to now opposing the bill.”

Activists say the bill is rumored to be up for a floor vote on April 17, and House leadership is reportedly not allowing amendments.





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