By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
ST. LOUIS — The head of the Missouri Press Association says the state is entering a “slippery slope” after Gov. Jay Nixon signed into law House Bill 1647, which expunges certain felonies and misdemeanors from criminal records.
“One of the things we look at hardest is keeping records open to the public, and this bill closes some of those records,” MPA Director Doug Crews told Missouri Watchdog Friday.
The bill modifying provisions relating to public safety is large, addressing things such as hazardous waste hauler fees and off-highway vehicle use.
It allows people convicted of offenses such as writing bad checks, trespassing and illegal gambling to remove those crimes from their records — after 10 years for misdemeanors, 20 years for felonies. People petitioning the court where the crime was adjudicated must have paid any restitution and not have committed more crimes during that time.
Nixon signed the bill into law Tuesday amid a flurry of action before the Saturday deadline to act on legislation passed by the General Assembly.
The National Rifle Association championed the bill because it returns to people unable to buy a gun because of their criminal records the right to own a weapon.
Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah, told the Columbia Daily Tribune he added the provision during Senate debate of the bill to help
a constituent with a bad-check conviction get a rifle so he can take his son hunting. Federal law prevents people with felony convictions from receiving a gun permit.
“My initial target was to restore gun rights to individuals who have proven over two decades of how they live their lives that they deserve to have their privileges returned,” he said.
Crews said the legislation infringes on the rights of others.
“I feel like potential employers are shortchanged when they can’t find out the background of potential employees,” he said.
Crews worries lawmakers may add more crimes to the potential expungement list in future sessions.
“The slippery slope is upon us,” he said.
Lager said he created a narrow list containing only nonviolent offenses.
“Some mistakes are so outrageous that they follow you forever,” he said. “Others, you should be able to move on.”