State Right to Bear Arms in Missouri

Posted on January 2, 2012

Last Updated December 19, 2010

Article 1, § 23 of the Missouri Constitution provides “[t]hat the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned; but this shall not justify the wearing of concealed weapons.”

The Supreme Court of Missouri has held that article 1, § 23 protects an individual’s right to possess or use firearms. However, the court has held such a right is limited to “defense of home, person or property” and is subject to the authority of the Missouri General Assembly to enact laws which regulate the time, place and manner of bearing firearms. In State v. Wilforth, the Missouri Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to a statute prohibiting the carrying of a firearm into a church or place of worship.1 Similarly, in State v. Shelby, the Missouri Supreme Court rejected a challenge to a statute prohibiting the carrying of a weapon in certain places where persons are assembled or while intoxicated.2

In State v. Keet, the Missouri Supreme Court rejected a challenge to a statute prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons.3 The court rejected the defendant’s argument that, since he had a “reasonable apprehension of danger” and was acting in self-defense, he had a right to carry a concealed weapon.4 The court distinguished between weapons carried openly and weapons carried concealed, and held that the state right to bear arms in self-defense does not protect a person carrying a concealed weapon.5

In State v. White, the Missouri Supreme Court rejected a challenge to a statute prohibiting the exhibition of a deadly weapon in a rude, angry or threatening manner.6 In State v. Plassard, the Missouri Supreme Court held that the state “right to bear arms” required that a defendant charged with unlawfully exhibiting a weapon be given an opportunity to prove that he had a right to possession of the property where he was at the time of the offense.7 The court stated that “[i]f the defendant was defending his home and property, he had a constitutional right to bear arms” and could not be convicted.8

In Brooks v. State, the Supreme Court of Missouri rejected a novel article 1, § 23 challenge to a state law, adopted in September 2003, that authorized the carrying of a concealed firearm.9 A group of citizens challenged the law, claiming that the carrying of a concealed firearm violates the last clause of article 1, § 23, which states that the article “shall not justify the wearing of concealed weapons.” The court stated that article 1, § 23 “means simply that the constitutional right does not extend to the carrying of concealed weapons, not that citizens are prohibited from doing so, or that the General Assembly is prohibited from enacting statutes allowing or disallowing the practice.”10

In City of Cape Girardeau v. Joyce, the Missouri Court of Appeals rejected an article 1, § 23 challenge to a municipal ordinance prohibiting the open carrying of a firearm readily capable of lethal use.11 The court also rejected an article 1, § 23 challenge to Mo. Rev. Stat. § 21.750.3, the statutory provision which delegated to political subdivisions the power to enact such ordinances.12 See the Local Authority to Regulate Firearms in Missouri summary for further information.

  1. 74 Mo. 528, 530 (1881), []
  2. 2 S.W. 468 (1886).) The court in Shelby also rejected a challenge to a statute prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons. ((Id. at 469. []
  3. 190 S.W. 573 (1916). []
  4. Id. at 574. []
  5. Id. at 576. []
  6. 253 S.W. 724 (1923). []
  7. 195 S.W. 2d 495 (1946). []
  8. Id. at 497. []
  9. 128 S.W.3d 844 (2004). []
  10. Brooks, 128 S.W.3d at 847. []
  11. 884 S.W.2d 33, 34 (1994). []
  12. Id. []