Missouri Republicans Send a Troubling Message

The Missouri legislature has overridden Governor Jay Nixon’s veto and enacted a law that “will allow most people to carry concealed guns without needing a permit.” Which means, among other things, that people will be under no obligation to undergo the required training that goes with acquiring a permit.

At the same time, the legislature used their own version of the nuclear option to overcome a Democratic-sponsored filibuster and overrode Gov. Nixon’s veto of a voter ID bill. Fortunately, in this latter case, all is not (necessarily) lost:

UPDATE: Apparently, they used the nuclear option to pass both bills.

Even though the veto was overridden, the bill won’t become law unless voters decide in November to amend the state’s constitution to allow a photo ID requirement. That’s because the Missouri Supreme Court deemed voter ID unconstitutional in 2006, ruling that the law amounted to a “heavy and substantial burden on Missourians’ free exercise of the right of suffrage.”

If voters reject the constitutional amendment this fall, voter ID remains unconstitutional and the enacting legislation voted on Wednesday is moot.

I could go into more detail on the merits and pitfalls of both bills, but I’d rather focus on the message they send. In making it much harder to vote at the same time that they make it much easier to carry a firearm, the Missouri GOP is inviting the conclusion that political disputes are best settled (and perhaps can only be settled) with violence.

That might sound extreme, but using the legislature and referendums to enact unconstitutional restrictions of your political opponents’ power is delegitimizing to representative government and therefore eats away at the consent of the governed. What you’re saying is that we need less democracy, less dissent, and more guns. It’s almost a recognition that, in undermining the legitimate governmental function of the state, you’ll need to arm yourself for protection.

Because, you know, dissent doesn’t evaporate just because it’s been politically marginalized. It loses faith in the possibility of politically satisfactory outcomes and seeks out other avenues for creating change.

People are not doormats and they’ll react when you tell them that you’re taking away their votes and arming yourselves.

Maybe Missouri Republicans are just terrified and this is how they want to protect themselves and arrest the march of history. But we can look around the world at other countries and see how things work out when people lose faith in the ballot box and turn to the gun.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.