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Possessing gun while drunk is now a felony

Zahnd encourages police to send violations to his office

A little-noticed provision of Missouri’s new law allowing people to carry concealed weapons actually increases the penalty for possession of a firearm while intoxicated. And Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd says his office will use the new law to bring felony charges against people who possess a gun while drunk.

One of the often-overlooked changes contained in the concealed carry legislation is that the punishment for the crime of possession of a firearm while intoxicated has been increased from a class B misdemeanor to a class D felony. Under the new felony classification, possessing a firearm or other projectile weapon while intoxicated can now result in a punishment of up to four years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Previously, the maximum sentence was six months in the county jail or a fine of up to $500.

Zahnd said in his opinion, the increased punishment makes perfect sense.

“Guns and alcohol do not mix. Whether you support the concealed carry law or not, this much is clear: those who possess firearms must do so responsibly. Carrying a gun while you are drinking is irresponsible, and it is a crime. My office is committed to vigorously enforcing this new provision.”

As part of his effort to enforce the new law, Zahnd has asked Platte County law enforcement agencies to send violations to his office for charging.

“In the past,” Zahnd said, “most of these charges were appropriately handled at the municipal level because they were misdemeanors. Now that this crime is a felony, we would like to prosecute these cases in state court so we have the strongest possible punishment available.

“By increasing the penalty for possession of a firearm while intoxicated, the Missouri legislature is sending the message that it wants those who carry a gun while drunk to face serious consequences,” Zahnd said.

“People who plan to drink should leave their gun at home.”

The concealed weapons law and the new penalty for possession of a firearm while intoxicated became effective Oct. 11.