ST. LOUIS – Federal, state and local Black caucus members and legislators are trying to do their part in the fight against rampant gun violence that is now taking the lives of children.
Bills are being introduced. Monetary rewards have been put on the table. A town hall has been called. Panels and rallies have ensued. Letters have been written.
In a letter Monday, on the heels of a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo., 1st Dist.), the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus penned a letter to the governor. The caucus requested Gov. Mike Parson to call a special session or to add gun safety to an upcoming special session.
In the letter, sent three days before a citywide town hall meeting here, Rep. Steven Roberts (D-St. Louis, 77th Dist.), chairman of the MLBC, wrote:
“We took this action in the wake of tragic deaths of over a dozen children this year. We consider this an emergency that demands the attention of the entire General Assembly and Governor. Action must be taken to stem the rise in gun violence in our cities and to help local law enforcement to protect our children.”
Parson, a Republican, veteran and former law enforcement officer, rejected the emergency request to work toward giving local governments the authority to enact their own gun laws.
The letter was signed by the entire 19-member MLBC. They were urging the governor to add the issue to a Sept. 11 special session addressing a technicality in the vehicle sales tax.
“How is it that we put cars over children, over lives?” Rep. LaKeySha Bosely (D-St. Louis, Dist. 79) asked in an stltoday.com interview. Continuing, she said, “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.”
Parson, a staunch Second Amendment rights supporter, was quoted in Missourinet.com, stating about his denial of the request:
“While the issue of how to reduce violence in our urban areas certainly needs to be addressed, there are also many different opinions on how to find a solution. However, special session is not the correct avenue. 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.”
A bevy of federal, state, local and community members will convene a town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, at Harris-Stowe State University (main auditorium, 3026 Laclede Ave.) to work toward that goal.
Clay, who drafted H.R. Bill 3435, which would allow local governments to enact their own gun controls, will be a featured speaker at the town hall. He will be joined by the city’s African-American Aldermanic Caucus: AAAC Chair Jeffrey Boyd (26th Ward); Sam Moore (4th Ward); Marlene Davis (19th Ward); Tamika Hubbard (5th Ward); Brandon Bosley (3rd Ward); Pam Boyd (27th Ward); Lisa Middlebrook (2nd Ward); and John Collins-Muhammad (21st Ward), host of the town hall meeting.
Also slated to appear are: Jimmie Edwards, director of public safety; Dr. Laurie Punch, trauma surgeon; Christine Novalis, Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence; and Dwayne T. Smith, interim president, Harris-Stowe State University.
The NorthSider is awaiting a return email from the governor to see if he will be attending. His website-provided phone number had a voicemail that was full and couldn’t take any more phone calls.
Regarding the governor’s refusal to address gun violence at the upcoming special session, Boyd said he was disappointed but not surprised, noting that Republicans tend to support the NRA.
“It is our hope that our governor and state leaders – those who can really impact change – hear our outcry: We want to move toward some responsible gun laws,” Boyd said.
“We’re not saying we have all the answers, but we want to work with our state legislators, so we can make a difference in our community as it relates to these homicides – especially with our children.”
Boyd continued, “I think [state Republicans], if they – at least – give us the opportunity to work on it – since they’re not interested in our lives – follow our lead. And if it works, create a legislation across the whole state.”