Missouri Gov. Mike Parson spent most of Thursday in St. Louis, meeting with prosecutors, politicians, clergy and others to talk about the city’s undeniable murder crisis.
It’s Parson’s third trip to St. Louis this month to address violence. The city is on pace to suffer more than 200 homicides this year, matching the total from 2017, when it registered the worst murder rate in the nation.
Twelve children younger than 17 years old have been killed in St. Louis this year.
St. Louis is one of the most violent cities in America, and the governor must do what he can to help stop the bleeding there. Thursday, he said he would devote roughly 25 state personnel to assist various task forces and other anti-crime efforts — all in St. Louis.
“None of us, no matter where we’re from, want to see our children being shot in the streets.,” he said in a statement.
That’s a welcome start. But Parson’s repeated and ongoing efforts to personally address the violence in St. Louis suggests he is tragically unaware that other parts of the state, especially Kansas City, are facing similar spikes in gun violence that demand urgent action.
There have been 110 homicides in Kansas City in 2019. By the end of the year, the city, which also ranks as one of the most dangerous in the country, may set a record for murders. Yet the governor has not been here recently to talk about those crimes or potential solutions for Kansas City.
Meanwhile, St. Louis has been in heavy rotation.
Parson called a special session of the legislature but specifically declined to ask lawmakers to address guns. Car sales taxes got plenty of attention.
Kansas Citians should not measure the governor’s work by visits alone. And Kansas City’s murder crisis may require different solutions than the assistance offered to St. Louis, or any other community. This is not a competition.
But it is a crisis, on both ends of the state. And Parson must develop concrete plans to assist both metro areas.
He should not come to Kansas City for meaningless photo opportunities. He should come to meet with community leaders and discuss proven measures to reduce violence, solutions that can be implemented quickly.
Mayor Quinton Lucas has a responsibility here, too. Thursday, Lucas said the governor had not contacted him, but that he hadn’t reached out to the governor, either.
That should change. Lucas should invite the governor to Kansas City — next week would be good — and then draft an agenda for discussions about gun violence.
The to-do list should include providing additional state funding for investigators to help clear the backlog of unsolved murder cases. More money for counseling and mental health services should be on the table.
Parson’s agenda should include state legislation that would allow Kansas City to prohibit weapons at outdoor events, such as the Plaza Art Fair and First Friday.
Most importantly, the governor should commit to measures that would clear the way for Kansas City and St. Louis to develop gun regulations that are tailored to the specific crime-fighting challenges the two cities face. Urban violence is complicated, and one-size-fits-all state statutes are counterproductive and dangerous.
Missouri is not helpless, and Kansas City and St. Louis are not hopeless, in the face of brutal killings. Other cities and states have successfully worked to reduce the slaughter. Missouri can do the same.
It will take the concentrated efforts of everyone in the state to do so. That includes Gov. Parson, who must work to reduce violence in every corner of Missouri — not just St. Louis.