Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says he wants to find solutions to reduce the spiking gun violence that is cutting lives short in this state every day.
But apparently, Parson hopes to somehow reduce the carnage caused by guns without actually doing anything about guns.
The governor recently pledged to send money for social programs that address gun violence and members of the Missouri Highway Patrol to St. Louis, which has seen an unending stream of homicides in recent months.
Unbelievably, though, Parson said he would leave gun control in the hands of lawmakers.
“I’ve got to be careful to stay in my lane,” Parson said.
If taking substantive steps to address what has become a public health crisis in his state isn’t in his lane, what, exactly, does Parson think his job entails?
As the governor of a state that now has three of the most dangerous cities in the country, Parson has a responsibility to take the lead on the issue of gun safety. From Kansas City to St. Louis, and from Columbia to Springfield, children, women and young men are dying every day as a result of gun violence.
And if Parson genuinely wanted lawmakers to take up this issue, he could make that happen.
As luck would have it, the Missouri legislature will be convening this week — a well-timed opportunity that could be used to discuss what has become an urgent issue demanding action. But the governor has other ideas.
Somehow, Parson saw fit to call a special legislative session to take up the very narrow and not-so-pressing issue of sales taxes on used cars. But he has declared that a special session is “not the correct avenue” to address gun violence.
It never seems to be the right time to take even modest steps to make our state safer.
Parson’s decision to aid St. Louis is well-intentioned and might provide a modicum of temporary relief. But it’s a half measure at best, not a long-term strategy. And the governor’s unwillingness to address the real issue — guns — is inexcusable.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said a financial commitment to hire 200 social workers in Kansas City and increased funding for the Missouri Public Defenders and Jackson County Prosecutor’s offices would be a better remedy than a flood of state troopers on Kansas City streets.
“The idea of having a bunch of folks from outside to come in and patrol a community that they don’t know, frankly isn’t really 21st-century crime fighting,” Lucas said.
But the bloodshed is not just limited to the urban cores.
Gun suicides and unintentional shootings have affected every part of the state. Twice as many Missourians die by suicide annually than by homicide, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Firearms accounted for the majority of those deaths.
Missouri’s lenient gun laws contribute to the high violent crime rate. Anyone 19 and older can legally carry a concealed weapon without a permit, training or even a background check.
Gun violence is a growing public health crisis and needs to be treated as such. Allowing the largest cities in Missouri to enact their own gun laws could help stem the tide of violence.
To protect Missouri communities, elected officials need to take a comprehensive approach and invest in data-backed local gun violence prevention, said Karen Rogers of the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Additionally, “we should be investing in firearm technology to help solve homicides and boost our clearance rates,” she said.
So far, the governor has shown no inclination to have a serious conversation about any commonsense gun safety measures that could actually make a dent in violent crime rates. Pleas from leaders in Kansas City and St. Louis, as well as lawmakers representing urban areas, have been ignored.
During a visit to St. Louis last week, Parson said, “It’s unfortunate that all these children have been shot and killed, and we’re now dealing with it after that.”
What’s even more unfortunate is that children have been shot and killed, and state leaders aren’t really dealing with it in any meaningful way.