CITY HALL – The sight of a man nonchalantly holding a legal semiautomatic rifle makes 22nd Ward Alderman Jeffrey Boyd cringe. For all St. Louis aldermen, so does the thought of 77 murders in the city through June 4.
“People are afraid. They don’t want their children growing up in an environment like that,” 3rd Ward Alderman Brandon Bosley said.
St. Louis aldermen reacted to the situation on Friday by passing a resolution in support of National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Earlier in the week, members of the board’s Ways and Means Committee voted to shift $500,000 in the coming year’s budget from police overtime to the establishment of a Cure Violence program here.
Cure Violence is an international program that tackles violence by bringing organizations together and working directly with potential violators. It treats violence as a public health threat and uses strategies associated with disease control: detecting and interrupting conflicts, identifying and treating the highest risk individuals, and changing social norms.
St. Louis’ $500,000 would go toward hiring staff and providing services and infrastructure, Reed said. People who have been to prison and now are out and successfully living in the community would help those at risk.
“These plans have been hugely successful, not just driving the murder rate down by not four, five or six percent, but 50 or 60 percent,” Reed said.
“Awareness is not enough. We need to find solutions,” said 19th Ward Alderwoman Marlene E. Davis. “The homicide rate is continuing to be at a level that is totally unacceptable.”
Everytown for Gun Safety along with the local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America helped draft the resolution.
“You don’t have to go far to see how violence has affected the city of St. Louis,” said Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, surrounded by members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America in orange T-shirts.
Twenty-eighth Ward Alderwoman Heather Navarro said that guns were becoming more widespread and that elected leaders needed to be held more accountable. And 1st Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus suggested that laws allowing open carry of guns might be all right for other parts of the state, but not St. Louis.
Boyd, whose nephew was shot and killed in 2015, said the number of guns in our communities was troubling.
“If hundreds of black people would march around Cole County, Festus, Fenton, toting AR 15s legally, it will scare the hell out of some people,” Boyd said.
Boyd said he recently witnessed in his neighborhood a man with an AR 15. He had on summer clothes and was walking around freely. “People are terrified, and there’s absolutely nothing that the police can do about it.”
Christine Novalis, a St. Louis volunteer with the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, praised the city’s budget decision.
“Across St. Louis, people are working to create a safer future for our families and neighborhoods, and that includes our Board of Aldermen. We’re grateful to the city for taking gun violence prevention seriously and working to address it, including by supporting proven interventions like Cure Violence,” Novalis said.