The mayors of the two largest cities in Missouri are pushing the state’s new Republican governor to support greater local control over gun policy, a request they acknowledge could be difficult in the mostly rural state.
Gov. Mike Parson joined Kansas City Mayor Sly James for a day-long tour of the city Thursday, part of Parson’s effort to foster better relationships between the state’s urban centers and the governor’s office after prolonged tension during former Gov. Eric Greitens’ tenure.
The jam-packed schedule — including stops at a police station and preschool and brief remarks to the City Council— was crafted by James’ office to underscore three core issues on the city’s agenda: Crime, affordable housing and early childhood education.
The mayor and governor were joined by St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, whose city the trio will also tour in the near future.
Among the topics that the governor and the mayors have discussed is the desire for greater local control on gun policy, which would enable the cities to more strictly regulate weapons despite the lax laws at the state level.
James bristled when his past comments on the issue — he’s accused state lawmakers of placing ideology and gun lobby campaign contributions ahead of public safety — were referenced by a television reporter during a joint news conference that followed a visit to the Kansas City Police Department’s East Patrol and Crime Lab.
The two mayors clearly wanted to strike a more moderate public tone with the new governor at their side.
“I’ve said that our legislature doesn’t understand that urban environments are different from rural environments,” James said at the next tour stop, Kansas City Urban Youth Academy.
Krewson expanded on this point.
“I understand that most Missourians support the Second Amendment, but in our cities, in my opinion, we need to be able to have some control over guns in our cities. It’s a very dangerous situation,” Krewson said.
“I would like to see a different opportunity in cities than in rural Missouri. That’s a big ask. It’s a big deal,” she continued. “It’s something that we’re going to talk about because I do believe that when we have crime in our cities it does affect everybody.”
Parson assured the reporters gathered at the event that he and James have discussed the issue — and will continue to do so — but he resisted taking a firm stance on whether he would support legislation to enact greater local control on guns.
“He’s definitely told me his view on that, what he thinks,” Parson said of James.
Parson said that without seeing a bill he could not say whether he’d sign legislation in the future.
“A piece of legislation, if it comes to the governor’s desk, sure, we’re going to take a look at it…. We’ll be open to that legislation when it comes to my desk,” he said.
James said that he doesn’t want to box Parson in on the issue, noting that he had been able to work with Parson to achieve common goals during his time in the legislature.
“I understand that you’d like to pin him down on it…. I want to be able to have a conversation with him down the road about what’s going on without the back filter of being pinned down and penned in. This is a touchy issue and we’re going to try to handle it delicately,” James said.
He also noted that the mayors will have to sway lawmakers, not just the governor, on the issue.
Krewson added that “most things in this world get done based on relationships. And that’s part of what we’re doing here today.”
Parson’s brief visit to the City Council chamber marked the first time in living memory that a sitting Missouri governor has addressed the body. His comments were upbeat but noncommittal.
“Some of the things we’ve seen today in different parts of Kansas City are things we’re going to be focusing on in this administration,” Parson said. “Hopefully we can learn things from one another.”
Parson appealed for support on two issues: raising the skills of the state’s workforce and bolstering infrastructure. “There’s no way to sugarcoat it,” he said of the latter. “It’s going to cost a lot.”
While Parson made no commitments, he extracted one from James and Krewson: a promise to tour rural Missouri.
James said he was all in, with one caveat.
“We ain’t birthin’ no calves.”
The theme of building relationships was on display when the governor and mayors made an impromptu visit to Morning Star Community Center, which is across the street from the police station, to see a Baptist youth group sing in the morning.
The community center and its connected church work closely with the nearby police station and the Rev. John Modest Miles invited the governor to meet the children as his visit to the crime lab wrapped up.
Miles said he wanted to see how the cooperation between the community center and the police has changed the community.
After the musical performance, Parson addressed the children and invited them to visit his office in Jefferson City.
“One of the things we’re doing together is to try figure out how we can make everybody’s life in this room a little better,” he told them.
The mayors and the governor then went to Arthur Bryant’s for lunch, where they shared a sample platter of ribs, brisket and turkey.
Parson’s afternoon agenda included visits to the Buck O’Neil Bridge and St. Michael’s Veterans Center Apartments. The apartments were built with the help of low-income housing tax credits that Greitens’ administration eliminated last year. James wants to persuade Parson to restore them.