Is It Legal? Walking into Wal-Mart with an Assault Rifle
Last night a man walked into Walmart in Springfield with a tactical vest, 100 rounds of ammunition and an assault rifle. Depending on the facts it was all likely more legal than most people think.
In Missouri, an individual has the right under the Missouri Constitution and statutory authority to open carry and conceal carry. There are no limits on the types of legal firearms that can be carried. In other words, a person may carry a concealed pistol or openly carry an assault rifle without a permit or license. That’s Missouri law.
Missouri has some limits on who can possess a firearm and where. For example, Intoxicated people and convicted felons, are barred from possessing a firearm. Ironically, Missouri also bars possession of a firearm in government buildings, but in a private business there is no such limitation. Businesses are able to post signs indicating that firearms are not allowed in, but as a general rule an individual may take a firearm into a business.
Given the recent events at the El Paso Walmart this open carry event could be charged in one of three ways. Prosecutors are likely looking at charges ranging from misdemeanor peace disturbance to first degree terrorist threat. The charges are largely going to depend on what took place in the Walmart. Further evidence should assist prosecutors in making a charging decision. They could also come to the conclusion that no laws were broken.
Missouri peace disturbance states a person commits the offense of peace disturbance if he unreasonably and knowingly disturbs or alarms another person or persons by threatening to commit a felonious act against any person under circumstances which are likely to cause a reasonable person to fear that such threat may be carried out. Given the recent events, a reasonable person would be alarmed and possibly fear for their safety. Peace disturbance is a class B misdemeanor with a possible 180 days in the local jail, the same potential punishment as a first DWI.
In order for it to be a felony the most likely felony would be unlawful use of a weapon. To be found guilty of unlawful use of a weapon, the individual would have to exhibited his firearm in the in the presence of one or more persons in an angry or threatening manner. That is why what happened in the Walmart is so important. If the suspect was making threats the incident could be charged as a felony by the local prosecutors office. This has the potential of prison time, up to four years.
Currently, he is on a
Missouri’s making a terrorist threat statute is ambiguous, leaving room for interpretation. It is unclear what an “implied threat” or it was done purposely to frighten individuals. Here is the statute:
RSMo 574.115. Making a terrorist threat, first degree — penalty. — 1. A person commits the offense of making a terrorist threat in the first degree if such person, with the purpose of frightening ten or more people or causing the evacuation, quarantine or closure of any portion of a building, inhabitable structure, place of assembly or facility of transportation, knowingly:
(1) Communicates an express or implied threat to cause an incident or condition involving danger to life; or
(2) Communicates a false report of an incident or condition involving danger to life; or
(3) Causes a false belief or fear that an incident has occurred or that a condition exists involving danger to life.
The Greene County Prosecutor’s Office has till this afternoon to make charging decisions on a
Needles to say Walmart will likely take private action to bar the individual from the store. However, whether he committed a crime is not nearly as certain as his lack of discretion.