St. Louis Alderwoman Cara Spencer has presented a bold challenge to Republicans in Jefferson City. She wants to ban the open-carry display of firearms in St. Louis unless the person has a state concealed-carry permit, a move she took right after a video surfaced of a hooded man strolling defiantly on a downtown street carrying a rifle. If the Board of Aldermen approves Spencer’s bill, it would force Missouri’s governor, attorney general and gun-rights lawmakers to take a stand: either defend the right of gun carriers to terrorize tourists and residents, or defend the city’s efforts to restore law and order.
The challenge is not just theoretical. State Sen. Nick Schroer, a gun-rights fanatic, reacted with shock in early May after the downtown video surfaced. “More people were murdered over the weekend and the Wild West literally in the streets,” he wrote. “Blood on your hands if no action taken!” The action he proposed was a state takeover of St. Louis police, but unless police have legal authority to disarm menacing gun-wielders, a takeover would be meaningless.
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So if Schroer and, presumably, other hard-line Republicans are outraged at gunmen terrorizing others on the streets, then he should be among the first to support Spencer’s local bill. Spencer maintains that the law conforms with a nine-year-old provision in state law and that Kansas City already enforces such a law.
But Republican state lawmakers have been adamant that state law guaranteeing Second Amendment gun rights supersedes local law and that the right to carry firearms is paramount — even to the point where they would punish police officers for enforcing any federal gun law that doesn’t have an equivalent under state law.
So Spencer’s bill effectively puts them on the spot: Do they want gun-free security on the streets of St. Louis, or do they really think gun carriers’ rights trump all else?
It matters because St. Louis, the state’s economic engine, is suffering mightily amid rising insecurity. The population dropped 5% from 2020 to 2022. Tourists are increasingly victimized by lawlessness. St. Louis is known nationally as a crime haven.
Spencer could strengthen her bill even further — and put Republican lawmakers even more on the spot — by adding a phrase banning the open-carry possession of guns in the presence of law enforcement. Let’s face it, people tend to put their guns away whenever police are present, and gun laws can’t be enforced unless cops are there.
Current state law endangers police officers by allowing people to openly carry firearms, severely restricting officers’ authority to stop them. Putting that wording into Spencer’s bill would emphasize the right of police to intervene if a firearm is openly present.
It also would, again, force state lawmakers to take a stand: Are they pro-police, or are they on the side of gun terrorists? Force them to choose.