Kansas City Councilwoman Jolie Justus got it exactly right last week when asked about gun control.
“If Missouri is not going to enact common-sense gun regulations, it should remove the barriers that prevent local municipalities and counties from enacting their own regulations,” said Jolie, who is a participant in The Star’s Influencer series. “Local control of gun laws should be allowed.”
We strongly agree. Allowing local governments to decide gun policy is sensible and doable.
It’s clear that gun rights advocates have no interest in even the mildest measures aimed at reducing gun violence — banning bump stocks, for example, or requiring full background checks for private gun purchases. Reforms are routinely rejected, even after slaughters such as the Sandy Hook and Las Vegas mass shootings.
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Political consultant and Influencer James Harris reflected this sensibility in his response to The Star’s question about changes to Missouri gun laws: None are needed, he said.
“Missouri is a state that strongly supports the Second Amendment,” Harris said.
While that’s probably true, it isn’t the whole story. The Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to a firearm, but that right, like all rights, is limited. The argument is over where those limits should be set.
Missourians in rural areas prefer fewer gun limits. But why should that view prevail in cities, which face unique challenges with gun possession and violent crime?
“Urban areas like St. Louis and Kansas City will continue to be among the most violent areas of the country until more common-sense gun laws are enacted,” Influencer Ken Novak, UMKC professor of criminal justice and criminology, told us.
Convincing rural lawmakers to accept new gun restrictions simply won’t happen in the current environment. But allowing cities to impose stricter regulations should be an acceptable compromise.
With that authority, cities could restrict access to guns for domestic abusers, or the mentally ill, as some Influencers suggested. Concealed carry regulations could be tighter in cities than the countryside.
Gun rights supporters say allowing local firearms restrictions would lead to a confusing patchwork of rules. But we already have a patchwork of weapons laws from state to state.
We have no doubt Missouri would do just fine if it allowed Kansas City and St. Louis to pursue their own firearms regulations.
State lawmakers pay lip service to local control whenever Washington tells them how to behave. But city council members and county legislators are elected, too, and should have the freedom to pursue laws that best fit their constituents.
The best government is the government closest to the people. State lawmakers should step aside and let this city decide for itself how to address the scourge of gun violence and murders on its streets.