Missouri clergy members say they are “cautiously optimistic” after meeting with Gov. Mike Parson in St. Louis to find ways to address gun violence in the state.
Parson would not back down on rejecting calls for a special session on gun violence. He said the main way to address it is by working at the federal, state and local levels.
“It won’t be one entity that can fix it,” Parson said after the private meeting Thursday. “And my hat’s off to the clergymen that are here today across this city and across this state. They got to play a part in it, too. The communities got to be a part of the fix.”
He again pledged to identify resources through his job training program, finding funding to address public safety matters, and bringing the Missouri Highway Patrol to roadways to free up St. Louis police to investigate these killings.
Parson also agreed to a handful of meetings with regional elected officials to talk about a cooperative effort with law enforcement, as well as shared resources in program development.
The Rev. Darryl Gray, with the Progressive Missionary Baptist Convention of Missouri, said it’s important that Parson addresses the causes of crime and violence.
“We think that is in the area of education,” Gray said. “We think that’s in the area of job creation and job training. And he has made a commitment to find money to do that. He’s also made a commitment to faith-based efforts creating safe zones through our churches.”
A senior staff member from Parson’s office will meet with clergy members next week to look for further solutions, including programs like Cure Violence in St. Louis and Aim4Peace in Kansas City.
Gray said that clergy leaders are happy with the meeting they had with the governor and that this is only the beginning of a conversation.
“And what we said to him was we want to hear your thoughts and then we want to know what we can do together moving forward,” Gray said. “And so we are convinced that he has heard us. We have heard him, and now we are putting together that partnership.”
Gray said Parson acknowledged that the deaths of black children in St. Louis and Kansas City is not solely a black community problem, but a state problem. Gray said it’s time for Parson to be a champion for all Missourians.
“He has acknowledged this as a Missouri issue,” Gray said. “What he has not acknowledged is that he will be our standard bearer on common sense gun legislation. But we’re still talking about that with the governor.”
In response to Gray’s comments, Parson said gun legislation and gun control issues have been an ongoing debate in the state.
“We know where we’re at in the state,” Parson said. “That’s going to have to go through the legislative process to change that. It’s what I told them today. You know I can’t just absolutely make those decisions on my own as governor, and I got to be real careful to stay in my lanes.”
Parson has said he expects the Legislature will address gun violence in the regular session, which begins in January. Parson is set to meet with clergy leaders again in 30 days.