Bob Buckley for The Examiner: Gun Proposals put Missouri in the Spotlight

February 16, 2022

Bob Buckley, partner at White, Graham, Buckley & Carr, is a regular columnist for The Examiner of East Jackson County. In his latest column, Buckley introduces a new proposed Missouri self-defense bill and explains the historical changes it will bring if passed.

The article, Gun Proposals put Missouri in the Spotlight, was published in the February 12 edition of The Examiner. An excerpt from the article is below.

A bill that was recently introduced in the Missouri General Assembly, Senate Bill 666, recently received national attention. It was introduced by Eric Burlison, a senator from Greene County in southwest Missouri. If passed, it would significantly change Missouri law on the right of self-defense.

The bill had two features. First, it provided that there shall be a presumption of reasonableness that a defendant believed that physical or deadly force was necessary to defend him or herself from a third person in a criminal case. The current law provides that the defendant has the burden of proving he or she reasonably believed physical or deadly force was necessary to defend him or herself from a third person.

The second part of this bill provided that a person who uses or threatens to use force in self-defense is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless such force was used against a law enforcement officer acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the person knew or should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. The bill also provides that law enforcement may not arrest a person for using or threatening to use force unless the agency determines that there is probably cause that the force used or threatened was unlawful.

The proposed legislation further provides that the defendant can raise a claim of self-defense during a pre-trial hearing in either a criminal or civil case which shall shift the burden on the party seeking to overcome the immunity by proof of clear and convincing evidence. In a civil case, the burden of proof is a preponderance of evidence unless punitive damages are sought, which means the party with the burden of proof must prove that something is more likely true than not true, so this legislation would change the burden of proof in any civil case involving the use or threat to use physical or deadly force. Clear and convincing proof is a high standard to achieve.

The bill was recently heard in a Senate committee. Patricia and Mark McCloskey were present at the hearing. The McCloskeys were charged with assault and harassment and pleaded guilty to the charges in June of last year but were pardoned by Governor Parson in August. The Chief Disciplinary Counsel had recommended that their licenses to practice law in Missouri should be indefinitely suspended. The Missouri Supreme Court suspended them for one year but stayed the execution of the order for one year and placed them on probation, which allowed them to continue to practice law.