Mary Sanchez

Missouri’s lax gun laws makes it too easy for criminals to be armed


An argument for sensibility was pitched this week to the Missouri legislature, via some moms in Kentucky.

It’s doubtful many politicians heard it. The message — about gun regulations previously passed by the legislature — was laced with sympathy for a fallen state Kentucky trooper.

Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder pulled over a Missouri felon Sunday night for speeding, at more than 100 mph. The driver sped off. Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks led the trooper on a 9-mile chase before abruptly stopping, with Trooper Ponder’s car stopping right behind him.

Johnson-Shanks leaned out and began firing into the trooper’s windshield. Ponder, 31, died. Johnson-Shanks, of north St. Louis County, fled. He later died in a shootout with another Kentucky officer.

The question is, how did a felon get the gun?

Pretty easily in Missouri or Kentucky was the point made by Kentucky chapters for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which is affiliated with Everytown For Gun Safety.

Both Missouri and Kentucky have lax gun laws. Even people with serious records wouldn’t be flagged during many non-licensed dealer gun sales. Records show Johnson-Shanks pleaded guilty in 2007 to a second-degree burglary charge in St. Louis County.

Studies have indicated a connection between when Missouri repealed its gun permit system in 2007, eliminating background check requirements for private handgun sales, with a doubling of the number of guns winding up at crime scenes.

Loosening up the rules for the good guys who want guns also loosens the rules for the bad guys who want guns. It’s that simple. Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has tried to impress this upon Missouri legislators. So has Kansas City Mayor Sly James and Chief of Police Darryl Forte.

This week’s headlines in Kansas City should make it clear that people with no common sense or self-control have far too much access to guns. What should be a petty argument too often ends with a death, by gunshot. A box of diapers being thrown at his head reportedly was the sorry excuse a man gave for shooting dead his ex-girlfriend, a 1-year-old and a teenage witness.

And yet, calls for evaluating gun ownership are always met with a dismissive response. It’s the reply that says: Criminals don’t abide by the law anyway, so don’t bother thinking that gun regulation will affect them?

But why make it easier for them? This is what the legislators fail to grasp. Their intention is to stoically protect the Second Amendment. They give credence to conspiracy theories that believe any tracking of guns sold or backgrounds checked will open the door to federal troops confiscating America’s firearms.

Johnson-Shanks’ other previous run-ins with the law included suspicion of stealing lottery tickets from a gas station, a marijuana violation, and failure to appear in court — nothing really violent. It’s an unanswerable game of ifs and buts to play out too many scenarios.

Still, you have to wonder, had it been more difficult for him to get a gun, would Trooper Ponder still be alive?

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