With the popularity of concealed-carry permits in Missouri, this has become a huge problem and point of inquiry from our clients. Under the law, as it existed prior to August 28th of this year, being anywhere near a loaded firearm while intoxicated was considered a felony. The old law was written so poorly and vaguely that simply coming home from the bar on a Saturday night and sleeping next to a loaded firearm in your nightstand was arguably a felony. And although it was legal to possess the firearm while you were acting in self-defense, it was unclear if you could legally possess the firearm in the seconds before you acted in self-defense (i.e. when you were trying to determine if the person in your home actually was an intruder). As you can imagine, this created a lot of problems.
Fortunately, the legislature changed the law, and the new law went into effect on August 28th. I say "fortunately," because the new law makes it much more difficult to be charged with possessing a firearm while intoxicated. However, the legislature changed the law in an odd way � by sticking the change into a real estate bill!
The new law prohibits:
1.Possessing a firearm capable of lethal use;
2.On your person (i.e. actually on your body);
4.And actually handling or otherwise using it in a negligent or otherwise unlawful manner;
5.Unless you're acting in self defense.
Let's break the law down a bit. Unlike the old law, which failed to define possession (i.e. that is why having the car in your glove compartment or nightstand could have been interpreted as "in your possession"), the new law requires the gun to actually be on your person. A firearm in your glove compartment or nightstand is not considered to be "on your person," (which the new law requires, rather than just "in your possession"), thereby clearing up much of the old law's ambiguity.
Second, the new law requires you to handle the gun in a negligent or otherwise unlawful manner. This provision is extremely important. Under the old law, simply possessing the gun was enough to be convicted of felony possession of a firearm. The new law, though, requires much more than mere possession on your person to be convicted. Now, you must also act negligently or unlawfully.
Shooting a gun blindly into the air for fun, pulling a gun out in a bar and accidently dropping it, and "pulling a Plaxico" (carrying a loaded guy in the waistband of your baggy pants, from which it could easily slip out and result in a shot being fired � possibly into your own thigh or elsewhere) are just examples of negligent, unlawful, or negligent and unlawful acts.
The new law does not protect such dangerous acts, but rather protects responsible, law-abiding citizens from facing the prospect of a felony for simply concealing a firearm for self-protection while intoxicated.
Despite the change in the law, for many people (i.e. the angry drunks out there), I highly recommend you still leave your firearm at home when you go out for a night of drinking. Alcohol impairs judgment and, consequently, reduces your ability to make rational decisions under even ordinary circumstances, let alone circumstances where you might be evaluating the use of deadly force to protect yourself or someone else from imminent death or serious bodily injury. With that said, however, most of us recognize that we are far more likely to face the need to use deadly force near those who are also similarly affected by alcohol. All you need to do is read the Post Dispatch to see numerous instances of innocent people being killed outside of bars or nightclubs, or just late at as a mistaken intruder. As a result, you must determine how responsible it is to carry a firearm while intoxicated, regardless of what the law may or may not allow.