Blunt signs bill on keeping guns in emergencies

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Gov. Matt Blunt has signed legislation ensuring that Missouri residents could not have their guns taken away during an emergency.

The legislation spells out that no government or individual can decide in an emergency to take away guns and ammunition from those who lawfully possess them.

The House passed the measure Thursday on a 150-2 vote. The Senate also passed the bill overwhelmingly in mid-March. Blunt signed the measure later Thursday, his office said, but also planned a ceremonial signing today in St. Louis during the National Rifle Association's annual convention.

The bill is a response to the fallout after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in August 2005.

"Family heirlooms were taken away, and after this state of emergency is over, there is no accountability, there is no tracking and no one knows who they belong to," said Rep. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg.

State and federal law enforcement officers in Louisiana confiscated hundreds of guns after the levees failed and the city began to flood. Several pro-gun groups sued, and the city last spring began returning weapons to owners with paperwork for them.

After the hurricane, gun-rights groups have embarked on nationwide efforts to prevent the seizure of guns during emergencies.

The legislation contains no penalty for taking firearms during an emergency, but supporters say that the threat of litigation would be enough to keep police and government officials in line.

Rep. Michael Daus said he was concerned that bill could make it harder for police to do their jobs during an emergency. Daus, D-St. Louis, said he thinks it is likely people's possessions will be at least damaged by an emergency, making it difficult to determine whether a weapon is owned lawfully. He predicted the confusion could cause problems.

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