Missouri Firearms and Use of Force
The rights of individuals to possess, carry and use firearms often overlap, and sometimes appear to be in direct conflict with, Missouri laws related to the unlawful use of those weapons. Any time a firearm is exhibited or used the very real potential exists for law enforcement investigators and prosecutors to pursue criminal charges including felony unlawful use of a weapon, assault, or in extreme cases some form of murder or manslaughter.
Understanding Missouri law related to the carrying and use of firearms is complicated. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution has recently been interpreted by the Supreme Court a “central component of the right” to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense which is the right’s “core lawful purpose,” and includes the “right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 599 (2008). As recently written by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt in his Amicus Brief filed in support of the motions seeking to dismiss the criminal prosecution of Patricia McCloskey in St. Louis, Missouri, self-defense is the “core lawful purpose” and “central component” of the right to keep and bear arms “enshrined in both the Second Amendment and in Article I, §23 of the Missouri Constitution” is “one of Missouri’s most fundamental freedoms.” (https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/default-document-library/2020-07-20—state-v-patricia-mccloskey—amicus-brief-of-attorney-general-schmitt—filed.pdf?sfvrsn=e1b38af9_2)
Missouri’s legislature has provided additional provisions to advance individuals right to possess, carry and use firearms by enacting the “castle doctrine” statute. (https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=563.031) This statute contains very broad language that: (1) allows individuals to use “deadly force” upon a reasonable belief that such force is necessary to protect him or herself, an unborn child, or any other person, from death, serious physical injury or any forcible felony; (2) allows deadly force to be used against anyone who unlawfully enters, or remains, or attempts to unlawfully enter “a dwelling, residence, or vehicle,” or “private property that is owned or leased by an individual (like an apartment or rental home) or is occupied by an individual who has been given specific authority by the property owner to occupy the property (like an overnight guest). Also, subsection (3) of this statute specifically states that a “person does not have a duty to retreat,” commonly referred to as a “stand your ground” law. This legal permission to not retreat before using deadly force applies to any “dwelling, residence or vehicle… or “any other location” where such person has a right to be. Anyone deemed acting “lawfully” under circumstances described in this statute are exempt from criminal prosecution.
However, whether or not a person is deemed to be acting “lawfully” under circumstances described in the self-defense, “castle doctrine” and “stand your ground” provisions of §563.031, initially rests with the police investigators and the prosecuting attorney. Missouri statute §571.030 provides a long list of criminal penalties for which an individual can be prosecuted for unlawfully using a firearm. (https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=571.030) If an individual is seriously injured or killed as a result of an individual using a firearm, the consequences of any criminal prosecution get even more serious with the possibility of charges such as voluntary manslaughter or second-degree murder. Again, the decision of whether or not a person is charged with a crime arising out of some use of a firearm rests with the police and the prosecuting attorney. Their view of whether or not the decision to “use” a firearm was reasonable and legally allowed under Missouri statute is a very critical decision and not one to be taken lightly. With over 30 years of legal experience we have defended and represented many individuals, legally authorized to carry concealed firearms, who found themselves involved in circumstances that required their use of deadly force, including cases where individuals have been shot and killed.
Early involvement by an experienced legal team is critical to a good outcome. If you are involved in a situation where you are forced to display or use a firearm to defend yourself or others, it is imperative that you do not allow yourself to be interviewed by the police investigators until you have an experienced attorney present with you. Even if you are absolutely certain that you have done nothing legally wrong, you must have an attorney experienced in these matters to help you navigate the complexities of these laws and to protect you from over eager police and prosecutors. We are always here to help.