JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Mike Parson has decided not to call a special legislative session to address gun violence after St. Louis lawmakers on Saturday called on the chief executive to summon the Legislature for emergency action.
The call from the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus came amid a bloody weekend in St. Louis that saw three children killed within 48 hours.
“Special session is not the correct avenue,” Parson, a Republican, said in a statement. “If we are to change violent criminal acts in Missouri, it will take all of us at the federal, state, local, and community levels working together toward that common goal.
“While the issue of how to reduce violence in our urban areas certainly needs addressed, there are also many different opinions on how to find a solution,” he added.
Lawmakers will already be in town during the week of Sept. 9-13 for the annual veto session. And, Parson has scheduled a special session that week for lawmakers to address a tax issue facing mostly rural car buyers.
“How is it that we put cars over children, over lives?” asked Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis. “To allow our government to work in a way that dollars become more important than the actual citizens that live here — we should be ashamed of ourselves.”
The Black Caucus, in its call for a special session, asked Parson to authorize consideration of a measure allowing municipalities with high rates of gun violence to implement their own gun laws.
“We ask that he (Parson) share his proposed solution to the epidemic of violence now terrorizing Missourians. We believe the first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens,” Rep. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, the chairman of the Black Caucus, said in a statement.
“If, as the Governor wrote in his response, ‘there are also many different opinions on how to find a solution,’ we ask that he list these opinions, state his preferred solution, and work to build consensus,” Roberts said.
“Simply trying to wait out the crisis is not a solution and the parents, family, friends, and community of the next child murdered deserve more than a stagnating response,” he said. “The time to lead is now.”
The leader of the GOP-controlled Missouri Senate on Monday responded tepidly to the call for emergency action on gun violence.
“Obviously, anytime we see a rise in this kind of violence it is a problem,” said Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan. “But I don’t know if anything is on the horizon. I don’t know if anyone has the answer.”
House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, did not respond to a question about whether he would support a special session.
Parson told reporters Tuesday that he is investigating what the state can do to assist the state’s two largest cities in reducing gun violence.
He said calling on the state Highway Patrol to police St. Louis interstates is one item on the table. He also suggested that state financial resources could be tapped.
“I think we all want to help St. Louis and Kansas City right now,” Parson said. “I mean with these kids getting killed in the streets, something’s got to give. We’ve got to figure out what we can do.”
In 2017, former Gov. Eric Greitens deployed the Highway Patrol to St. Louis.
Although troopers issued thousands of tickets and arrested hundreds, there was no concrete way to determine the effect of the program.
Homicides were up overall over 2016, but were down by about 9% during the pilot program period compared with the same period a year earlier. Assaults involving guns were up by about the same amount when comparing July through September 2017 to the same months in 2016.
“The bottom line is that we’re going to do some things that are within my powers. I would say the Highway Patrol will definitely be on the table,” Parson said.
Parson also said he expects the Legislature to consider gun control when it reconvenes for its regular session in January.
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