Missouri leaders hope to keep minors, abusers from guns

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Gov. Mike Parson, city leaders and police chiefs proposed on Monday a three-pronged plan to fight gun violence that includes keeping firearms from minors, domestic abusers and violent offenders.

St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield all have experienced spikes in gun crimes and homicides in recent years. Police say 176 people have been killed this year in St. Louis alone, including more than a dozen children who lost their lives to gun violence. Police have reported at least 134 homicides in Kansas City.

“These aren’t radical ideas,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said. “What we’re saying is we’re going to make the community safer by making sure that children aren’t walking around with handguns.”

Federal law already bans minors from having handguns, but Columbia Mayor Brian Treece said local law enforcement shied away from referring minors to federal prosecutors. He said adopting a similar state ban would give law enforcement more tools.

In Columbia, violent offenders are sometimes allowed to keep firearms after agreeing to plead guilty to lesser misdemeanor crimes, Treece said. He wants prosecutors to be able to require those offenders to give up their guns as part of plea deals.

Parson, Treece, Lucas and the mayors of St. Louis and Springfield also called for more money for witness protection programs and community mental health treatment. Parson said he’d ask legislative budget officials for a bump in funding.

Ensuring that minors, domestic abusers and violent offenders don’t have access to guns is “commonsense” and “doable” for the Republican-led Legislature, where there’s strong support for gun rights, Parson said.

“I’m optimistic we’ll get it done,” said Parson, also a Republican.

However, fellow Republican and Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz said last week that taking guns from “law-abiding citizens” was off the table.

The next legislative session begins in January.

Republican legislators and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican, pitched last week their own plan to address violent crime. They called for strengthening Missouri’s carjacking statute and removing the requirement that forces St. Louis police officers to live in the city, in hopes of boosting officer recruitment and retention.

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