In advance of the Aug. 5 primary elections, Dist. 19 State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, Columbia, apprised the crowd assembled at Thursday’s Newton County Republican Central Committee annual Free Watermelon Feed about Constitutional Amendment 5.

The official ballot language states:

“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to include a declaration that the right to keep and bear arms is an unalienable right and that the state government is obligated to uphold that right?

“State and local government entities should have no direct costs or savings from this proposal. However, the proposal’s passage will likely lead to increased litigation and criminal justice related costs. The total potential costs are unknown and could be significant.”

Schaefer said both the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 23 of the Missouri Constitution provide the right to keep and bear arms, with some language to keep the state from infringing on that right, which hasn’t changed much since 1875.

Schaefer said the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time in 2008 that individuals had the right to keep and bear arms, no longer tying that right to members of militias, and in 2010 ruled for the first time that the Second Amendment prevents states from infringing on your right to keep and bear arms.

Schaefer reported that he co-sponsored the bill with Dist. 32 Sen. Ron Richard, Joplin, and they got it through the legislature to allow the people to vote on it.

“What it does is it adds language to the Missouri Constitution that says that your right in the state of Missouri as a Missouri citizen to keep and bear arms is an unalienable right of the highest degree,” he said. “Anything that infringes on that right gets strict scrutiny, which is the highest level of review by a court to hold the government to the tightest restraint, and it is the affirmative obligation of the state of Missouri to uphold that right.

“If we pass this, we will have the strongest right to keep and bear arms in any state in the United States, and I look forward to that day when we get this passed.”

Schaefer warned that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, shot down by a liberal NY court on his overreach to ban 32-ounce sodas, funds many anti-gun groups including in Missouri, who filed two lawsuits in an attempt to keep Missourians from voting on the issue next week.

“I personally was sued in that lawsuit since I wrote it, Ron Richard was sued because he’s the floor leader, so we argued that case in Cole County and a circuit judge in Cole County said we were right, that language was fine and it went on the ballot,” he said.

Schaefer reported that the opposition then immediately appealed the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court, which was affirmed by the high court, so it will be on the ballot.

He noted that recent overreaching actions by state government make it very important to affirm Missouri citizens’ right to keep and bear arms. He recalled when legislators uncovered that the Department of Revenue had on three separate occasions disclosed to federal agencies the concealed carry list of every Missourian who has a concealed carry permit.

 “That is a violation of the laws that we passed to protect that,” Schaefer said. “It’s private information, just like tax information. And when we found that out, we subpoenaed those witnesses and we made them come in and we found out what they were doing and that it was blatantly illegal, it dawned on me, that if we don’t change our Missouri Constitution, to add that strength, we are simply going to face more and more of that from the federal government.”

He urged everyone to vote for the measure to make a statement.

“Tell them they are wrong, we are Missourians, we value or right to keep and bear arms, and we will for our kids and our grandkids, and we’re going to do that by voting ‘yes’ on Amendment 5,” Schaefer said.

The other four amendments on the Aug. 5 ballot were explained during the watermelon feed by other state reps and senators. Those explanations will appear during the coming week in the Neosho Daily News.