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History of Firearms in MO

Written by Dr. Sarah Anderson
Published on February 13, 2024
Research Highlights

Repealing permit-to-purchase resulted in increased firearm homicides in MO.

The majority of MO homicides involve a firearm.

MO firearm deaths, due to homicide and suicide, are higher than national averages.

Gun policy has become less restrictive in MO.

In MO, concealed carry (CCW) was prohibited in 1874. In 1927, a permit-to-purchase was required for all gun purchases. Over time, the permit-to-purchase system was expanded to include a background check, a waiting period of up to seven days, registration and records of gun purchases, and a minimum age requirement of 21. The permits were handled through the sheriff who kept the gun purchase registry and performed background checks. Permits expired after 30 days (RAND 2022).

In 1968 at the federal level, the Gun Control Act (GCA) enacted laws regarding licensing, unlawful gun possession, and sales (CRS 2019). In 1986, the Firearm Owner’s Protection Act was passed, which amended several of these laws and repealed some regulations for federal firearm license (FFL) holders (DOJ).

In the early 1990s, a background check was implemented for all gun purchases through a FFL, and youth were banned from possessing a handgun (DOJ). In 2005, gun manufacturers and dealers were protected from liability when their products are used to commit crimes (CRS 2019).

In MO in 2004, CCW with a permit was passed, and in 2012 open carry with a CCW permit was passed. In 2017, CCW without a permit was passed. In 2007, permit-to-purchase was repealed. This means that the minimum age for purchase is lowered from 21 to 18, which is the federal standard to purchase a long gun (e.g., rifle, shotgun). Background checks are only conducted through FFLs instead of for all gun purchases, there is no more waiting period, and gun purchases are no longer registered with the sheriff. See our Policy Memo for a timeline of MO and federal gun laws (RAND 2022).

In MO, people who are not allowed to own a gun include those convicted of a felony, a fugitive, are habitually intoxicated or drugged, or judged as mentally incompetent. Unlawful possession of a gun is a felony (RsMO 571.070). Someone under the age of 18 cannot possess a gun without parental permission (RsMO 571.060). Federally, people under the age of 21 cannot buy a handgun, and those who are convicted of a domestic violence (DV) misdemeanor cannot buy a gun (CRS 2019).

In MO, castle doctrine states that a person has no duty to retreat before using deadly force to prevent a trespasser’s attempt to commit a forcible felony (e.g., arson, armed robbery, murder) in their lawful dwelling, residence, or vehicle (RsMO 563.031; RAND 2022).

Stand your ground was passed in 2016, which states that a person has no duty to retreat from a dwelling, residence, or vehicle they are lawfully staying in, private property that they own or lease, or in any location the person has a right to be (RsMO 563.031).


Guns are the most common weapon in most violent crimes.

Violent crime includes homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. From 1985 to 2000, MO violent crime was below or on par with national rates. In the early 2000s, MO violent crime rose above the national average and today is 30% higher (Figure 1A; FBI 2022).

Violent crime gun use rates are higher in MO compared to national averages. In MO, from 2013 to 2022, there were 118,890 violent crimes. 64% were aggravated assault, 20% robbery, 11% rape, and 2% homicide. Guns were used in almost 8 of 10 homicides, half of robberies, and a third of aggravated assaults. Guns are uncommon in rapes. In MO, Black men are over-represented among violent crime victims and offenders, except for rape, where Black women are overrepresented among victims (FBI 2022).

In 2023, MO police recorded 35,993 DV incidents, 12% of which involved a gun, making it the second most common weapon (DPS 2023).

The most common sources of gun deaths are homicides and suicides (Figure 1B; CDC WONDER). MO’s homicide rate is 60% higher, and suicide rate is 10% higher than national averages (FBI 2022; CDC 2023). In MO, Black men are overrepresented among homicide victims; rural residents and veterans are overrepresented among suicide victims (FBI 2022; MO DHSS 2022; RAND 2021).



Figure 1A. MO’s and the U.S.’s violent crime rate, 1985 – 2022. Data from FBI 2022. Figure 1B. National firearm death rate and rate of firearm deaths, homicides and suicides in MO, 1980-2016. Data from CDC WONDER.


Gun policies impact the prevalence of violent crime.

Nationally. Child access prevention laws reduce firearm assault and homicide among youths (RAND 2023). Firearm surrender related to DV lowers intimate partner homicides (RAND 2023a; RAND 2023b). Dealer and universal background checks lower firearm homicides (RAND 2023). Shall-issue CCW and stand-your-ground laws increase total and firearm homicides (RAND 2023a; RAND 2023b).

MO. Firearm homicide rates rose after repealing the permit-to-purchase system (Hasegawa 2019; McCourt 2017; Webster 2014). After the passage of permit-less CCW, officer-involved shootings rose by about 13% (Doucette 2022).


Works Cited

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Suicide Mortality by State. Retrieved from Center for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/suicide-mortality/suicide.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics System, Mortality: Compressed Mortality File 1999-2016 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released June 2017. Data are from the Compressed Mortality File 1999-2016 Series 20 No. 2U, 2016, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/cmf-icd10.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics System, Mortality: Compressed Mortality File 1979-1998. CDC WONDER On-line Database, compiled from Compressed Mortality File CMF 1968-1988, Series 20, No. 2A, 2000 and CMF 1989-1998, Series 20, No. 2E, 2003. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/cmf-icd9.html

Cherney, S., Morral, A., Schell, T., Smucker, S., & Hoch, E. (2022, June 28). Development of the RAND State Firearm Law Database and Supporting Materials. Retrieved from RAND: https://www.rand.org/pubs/tools/TLA243-2-v2.html

Congressional Research Services. (2019, March 25). Federal Firearms Laws: Overview and Selected Legal Issues for the 116th Congress. Retrieved from CRS Reports: https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R45629

Doucette, M. L., Ward, J. A., McCourt, A. D., Webster, D., & Crifasi, C. K. (2022). Officer-Involved Shootings and Concealed Carry Weapons Permitting Laws: Analysis of Gun Violence Archive Data, 2014-2020. Journal of urban health : bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine99(3), 373–384. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-022-00627-5

Federal Bureau of Investigations. (2022). Crime Data Explorer. Retrieved from Federal Bureau of Investigations: https://cde.ucr.cjis.gov/LATEST/webapp/#/pages/explorer/crime/crime-trend

Hasegawa, R. B., Webster, D. W., & Small, D. S. (2019). Evaluating Missouri's Handgun Purchaser Law: A Bracketing Method for Addressing Concerns About History Interacting with Group. Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.)30(3), 371–379. https://doi.org/10.1097/EDE.0000000000000989

McCourt, A. D., Crifasi, C. K., Stuart, E. A., Vernick, J. S., Kagawa, R. M. C., Wintemute, G. J., & Webster, D. W. (2020). Purchaser Licensing, Point-of-Sale Background Check Laws, and Firearm Homicide and Suicide in 4 US States, 1985-2017. American journal of public health110(10), 1546–1552. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305822

Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services. (2023). Health in Rural Missouri Biennial Report, 2022-2023. Retrieved from Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services: https://health.mo.gov/living/families/ruralhealth/pdf/biennial2022.pdf

Missouri Department of Public Safety. (2023). Domestic Violence Crime 2023 Missouri. Retrieved from Crime in Missouri: https://showmecrime.mo.gov/CrimeReporting/CrimeReportingTOPS.html

Ramchand, R. (2021, July 15). Suicide Among Veterans Veterans' Issues in Focus. Retrieved from RAND: https://www.rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PEA1363-1.html

RAND. (2023, January 10). Effects of Background Checks on Violent Crime. Retrieved from RAND: https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/background-checks/violent-crime.html

RAND. (2023, January 10). Effects of Child-Access Prevention Laws on Violent Crime. Retrieved from RAND: https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/child-access-prevention/violent-crime.html

RAND. (2023, January 10). Effects of Concealed-Carry Laws on Violent Crime. Retrieved from RAND: https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/concealed-carry/violent-crime.html

RAND. (2023, January 10). Effects of Prohibitions Association with Domestic Violence on Violent Crime. Retrieved from RAND: https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/domestic-violence-prohibitions/violent-crime.html

RAND. (2023, January 10). Effects of Stand-Your-Ground Laws on Violent Crime. Retrieved from RAND: https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/stand-your-ground/violent-crime.html

RAND. (2023, January 10). Effects of Surrender of Firearms by Prohibited Possessors on Violent Crime. Retrieved from RAND: https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/prohibited-possessors/violent-crime.html

U.S. Attorney and Burearu of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Field Division Directors. (n.d.). Gun Violence Reduction: National Integrated Firearms Violence Reduction Strategy Appendix C: History of Federal Firearms Laws in the United States. Retrieved from National Institute of Justice: https://www.justice.gov/archive/opd/AppendixC.htm#Appendix%20C

Webster, D., Crifasi, C. K., & Vernick, J. S. (2014). Effects of the repeal of Missouri's handgun purchaser licensing law on homicides. Journal of urban health : bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine91(2), 293–302. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-014-9865-8

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