With Missouri’s Republican-controlled Legislature stubbornly refusing to consider major gun-safety measures like background checks and permit requirements, St. Louis and other cities are casting around for other ways to stem the tide of blood. GOP Gov. Mike Parson, to his credit, has agreed to help push limited legislation that could keep guns away from minors and domestic abusers.
That’s a worthy effort, but a sliver of what’s needed. The urgency for more concerted action is so great that it’s tempting to oppose this modest measure for fear it will be used as an excuse by lawmakers and the governor to do nothing more.
Still, anything is better than nothing. Missouri cities should pursue this agreement, but they shouldn’t stop there.
St. Louis’ endless parade of fatal shootings is consistently among the highest gun-death rates in America. This year, more than a dozen of the victims have been minors.
The problem is complicated by Missouri’s wild-west approach to gun laws, which allow most Missourians to obtain guns with no background check and no permit. The system is so permissive that it makes it difficult for St. Louis police to legally confront gunmen until they start shooting.
The Republicans who control state government have already snubbed Mayor Lyda Krewson’s call to require people to get permits before they carry guns in the city, flying in the face of their own oft-stated respect for the concept of local control. Even as the Missouri GOP has put our state at the front lines of the national abortion debate, demanding protection for the unborn, it continues to allow a tide of unregulated guns to engulf our cities, killing the recently born and tying the hands of our local officials to do anything about it.
In light of all that, it’s encouraging that Parson — state leader of the party that has so completely stymied progress on this issue — has embraced even the modest reforms announced Monday.
After meeting with Krewson and the mayors of Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield, Mo., Parson endorsed legislation to keep guns out of the hands of minors, domestic abusers and violent criminals. He said he will push for the legislation in Jefferson City, which might give enough political cover to his fellow Republicans to take action, for once, on the state’s deadliest problem. The mayors are also pushing for increased funding for witness-protection programs, which could help police get to the bottom of more shootings.
But it can’t be stressed enough that this minimal progress must not be allowed to short-circuit continuing efforts to get permit requirements, universal background checks and other measures St. Louis desperately needs to address this crisis. Children are dying. If the “pro-life” party won’t work to address that, it should at least get out of the way.