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Child killed, another hurt, in drive-by shooting in St. Louis

DeVation Powell, the father of Kennedi Powell, 3, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood on June 9, removes a tarp that protects his daughter's memorial from the rain.

Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com.

Violent crime has become deadlier in St. Louis than it used to be, with a significant rise in homicides as a proportion of overall violent crime, a new study says. The root causes of violence are complicated, but the cause of the increase in fatalities may not be: Guns are far more likely to play a part in crimes today for the simple reason that they’re easier to obtain and carry after the loosening of gun-control laws in recent years. Now we see what could well be the resulting toll.

The study, by criminology researchers at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, looked at St. Louis crime data to assess how often crimes end in deaths. As the Post-Dispatch’s Rachel Rice reported Monday, they found that homicides increased year to year at a steeper rate than nonfatal robberies and assaults, from 23 homicides per 1,000 incidents to 36 — an increase of more than 50 percent.

The researchers are appropriately cautious about drawing conclusions as to why crimes that don’t have to end in killings more often do lately. But their own report establishes that guns are used more often in crimes today than in the past. It found that, in 2004, 43 percent of assaults and robberies involved a gun, compared to 60 percent of them by 2016.

Unlike in most countries, a large majority of homicides committed in the U.S. are committed with guns, as opposed to other weapons or methods. So it isn’t a big leap to deduce that this increased prevalence of guns in crimes is responsible for the increase in deaths. It’s a matter of common sense that a robbery using a gun is more likely to devolve into tragedy than one using a knife.

And thanks to the relentless campaigns of the National Rifle Association in Congress and in state legislatures, obtaining and carrying those guns is easier today than at any point in modern times. Nationally, the GOP continues to prevent even such widely popular common-sense proposals as universal criminal background checks as a condition of every gun sale. Since 2017, adults in Missouri can legally carry in public without a permit, criminal background check or training.

“Long ago … no one carried a gun unless they were a shop owner or they had a reason,” Mayor Lyda Krewson said. Today, “relaxation of gun laws has caused policing to be much harder.”

Even the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller supporting individual gun rights specified that court wasn’t saying all gun-control measures are intrinsically unconstitutional; those who believe otherwise are buying into the NRA’s biggest lie. And in St. Louis, as around America, it’s costing lives.