For years Missouri’s Republican Legislature has overseen a rightward turn on guns, taking the state from some of the country’s most restrictive laws to the most permissive. But several initiatives submitted for inclusion on the ballot in 2024 are seeking to change that.

The initiatives would restrict the carrying of firearms in public, require a permit and safety training to carry guns concealed, mandate that customers at gun shows pass a background check before buying a firearm, and make it a felony to sell a gun to anyone under the age of 18. They would also give local municipalities the authority to restrict firearms, effectively reversing a state law that gives Missouri legislators sole authority over gun regulations.  

This makes Missouri one of at least four states where voters could be asked to weigh in on gun regulations come November. 

But before getting on the ballot, the initiatives will face an uphill battle. 

Missouri’s Republican secretary of state, Jay Ashcroft, is an ardent defender of gun rights — and known for rewriting initiatives that don’t align with his politics. (Under Missouri law, the secretary of state summarizes each initiative that’s filed to his office, and that summary is what voters see on the ballot.) In October, the state’s largest appeals court struck down Ashcroft’s summaries of abortion-related ballot initiatives as politically partisan. Similarly, Ashcroft has presented many of this year’s gun reform initiatives as a threat to people’s constitutional rights, wording that could sway the outcome of the vote. 

The secretary of state did not respond to requests for comment: 

An amendment to reinstate the permitting requirement for carrying concealed guns.

  • Measure as submitted: “No person shall conceal and carry a firearm without a conceal and carry permit …”
  • Ashcroft’s summary: “… remove a person’s current statutory right to conceal and carry a firearm without a permit; …”

An amendment to mandate federal background checks on prospective gun buyers at gun shows and in private sales.

  • Measure as submitted: “No person shall sell a firearm, including at gun shows and private sales, to another person unless a licensed firearms dealer first conducts a background check …”
  • Ashcroft’s summary: “… overrule a law-abiding citizen’s current statutory right to sell a firearm and the people’s right to keep and bear arms; …”

An amendment to establish an Extreme Risk Protection Order law, also known as a red flag law, which allows police, mental health professionals, school officials, and family members to petition a court to temporarily ban the possession of firearms by a person deemed a risk to themselves or others.

  • Measure as submitted: “The court shall take up and decide such application on the day it is submitted, or … in no case later than three business days.”
  • Ashcroft’s summary: “… allow the state to prohibit persons from possessing, using, purchasing, manufacturing or otherwise receiving a firearm without due process; …”

It does not appear that Ashcroft’s ballot language is being challenged in court.

Previous attempts by Democratic lawmakers to restore gun restrictions have been futile. And this session, Republicans want to weaken the laws even further, introducing bills to arm teachers in schools and lower the minimum age to 18 to carry a concealed gun. 

The last 15 years have seen Missouri’s gun access laws loosened. The General Assembly in 2007 repealed the permit requirement to purchase a gun. In 2016, lawmakers eliminated the need for a permit to carry a concealed weapon, and five years later, they passed a “Second Amendment sanctuary” law to prohibit local enforcement of federal gun restrictions, immediately complicating joint task forces and investigations.

The initiatives for the 2024 ballot will need at least 171,592 signatures in order to appear on the ballot, and to become law, they must receive at least 50 percent of the vote.