Missouri Gov. Mike Parson agreed to back stricter gun control after a meeting Monday with the mayors of St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield to continue their discussion on addressing crime and gun violence throughout the state.
At its fourth meeting, the group agreed on three top priorities to make communities in Missouri safer: additional funding for witness protection programs, greater access to mental health care and stricter gun control.
One measure is to ensure minors do not have access to handguns. Currently, it is a federal felony for anyone under 18 to possess a handgun, but Missouri has no such law. This makes it difficult for prosecutors when charging young offenders.
“For obvious reasons, prosecutors don’t want to refer juveniles to the federal system, and I don’t think any of us want kids to be in that federal judiciary system,” said Columbia Mayor Brian Treece after the meeting at the state Capitol. “So having a state companion law that closes that loophole between the nonexistent law in state government and the federal felony law, I think, could give law enforcement the tools they need.”
Another goal is keeping firearms out of the hands of violent offenders and domestic abusers. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said these are not radical changes and can make a real difference.
“We think that these steps are reasonable ones,” he said. “We’ll be pushing to make sure they’ll be in effect both in our localities, but also statewide.”
Treece noted many of the offenders who were arrested surrounding the recent spike in violence across the state had previous felony charges that were reduced to misdemeanors. This allowed them to continue carrying handguns. With a stricter state law, prosecutors can use the right to carry as leverage in a misdemeanor plea bargain.
Parson said he is prepared to ask the Republican-dominated state Legislature to get on board with the stiffer regulations. While he said the long-term goal is still about education and workforce development, these are solutions that can help right now.
“We don’t need to keep talking about it. What is it we can really put into effect?” Parson said. “We can name 10 different things, but the reality of it is, if you can do seven of the 10, what are we doing wasting our time talking about it?”
In an effort to reduce violence in St. Louis, Parson increased highway patrols in October to try to catch more violent offenders and lessen the burden on city police officers. Mayor Lyda Krewson said there have been roughly 300 arrests, 28 of those for felony charges.
“We consider that successful,” Krewson said. “I know there have been guns and drugs both involved in some of those arrests, and so, that’s exactly what we were hopeful for.”
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