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Bill would label parks as child care venues, ban guns

CITY HALL – Alderwoman Cara Spencer, 20th Ward, is taking a step that she believes would keep firearms away from city parks.

Spencer introduced a bill at Friday’s Board of Aldermen meeting calling for the installation of signs in parks saying that they are child care facilities. As such, the possession and carrying of firearms is prohibited under state law. 

“We’ve had several incidents of guns in our parks,” Spencer said. “This has been an ongoing issue for a long time. What we’re trying to establish here is some gun-free safe areas, and our parks should be at the top of the list of places where our families can enjoy a gun-free environment.”

State law prohibits the carrying of firearms, both concealed or exposed, in “[a]ny portion of a building used as a child care facility without the consent of the manager.”

Spencer’s bill notes that the city’s Playtime Recreation operates a number of educational and recreational summer programs for ages 3-15. It also notes that private organizations, too, conduct children’s programs, including athletic programs, in city parks.

The idea got a mix of reactions from aldermen at Friday’s meeting.

“I think it’s an interesting concept. It’s something I want to explore more,” said 22nd Ward Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, who represents a north side ward. “The more we can do to limit guns in our public spaces, the better for me. But I want to make sure that I thoroughly look at it and look at it in an objective way knowing the legalities of it.”

As for whether the legislation would make any difference, Boyd said, “What will happen, I think, is the police will come and remove him from the park. You can’t bring a gun to City Hall, right? So why shouldn’t we be able to discourage people from bringing guns into our other public facilities?”

Twelfth Ward Alderman Larry Arnowitz had a different view.

“I’m not in favor of this one they’re proposing for the parks. First of all, the question is how are you going to enforce it? And a person can legally carry. How are you going to stop that?” the south side alderman said. “If you see somebody walking through the park carrying guns out in the open, even though it’s intimidating, by the time you call the police, and they get there, nine times out of 10 they’re going to be gone anyway.”

Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed said he wanted to look at the bill more closely before he made a decision. But he said, “Anything that limits the exposure to guns in this day and age I think we should be looking at. So I commend [Spencer] for working to put the bill together, and I’m hoping that I can get on board and support the bill 100 percent.”

Alderwoman Beth Murphy, 13th Ward, said Spencer’s idea was worth looking into. 

“What Cara’s trying to do is raise awareness about gun issues in the city of St. Louis, as opposed to the state in general. Perhaps the city requires some autonomy in their gun laws,” said Murphy, whose ward is on the south side. “It’s acceptable at the Zoo that you can’t carry guns, in church, or where children are in day care centers.”

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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