KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The speaker of the Missouri House says he hopes to have a proposal aimed at combating gun violence ready to debate next year, but critics say action needs to be taken sooner as the death toll mounts in the state’s largest cities.
Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, said some GOP lawmakers were researching what other cities have done to reduce bloodshed as they develop the proposal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“Obviously, we’ve got a bit of time before the next session starts in January,” Haahr said.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said Wednesday that she was unaware of any involvement by Democratic lawmakers in Haahr’s effort and that she would be interested in seeing what issues the Republicans wanted to focus on.
“But, as we’ve been saying for a while now, we can’t wait until January,” Quade said.
St. Louis has had about 140 homicides in 2019 and is on pace to top last year’s total of 186. Eleven of this year’s victims were children and two other child deaths are being investigated as suspicious.
Black lawmakers called on Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, to expand this week’s special session on used vehicle sales taxes to allow them to address gun violence. Parson, who has met with St. Louis-area leaders multiple times in recent weeks, declined.
Parson said Tuesday that a crime-fighting plan would be announced soon, although he has cautioned that he wants to protect the Second Amendment rights of Missourians.
Meanwhile, Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, is calling on Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, to form a special Senate committee to address the violence. She and Schatz were scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss the panel. Nasheed said the meetings would give senators the chance to hear from shooting victims and experts to inform policy proposals for the legislative session that starts in January. She said the committee must address socioeconomic factors that contribute to violence.