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Bill would keep handguns out of the hands of minors

CITY HALL – Backers of a bill now before the Board of Aldermen say they hope to take advantage of a loophole in state legislation to keep handguns away from children.

Board Bill 172 would create a municipal ordinance violation of Unlawful Possession of a Handgun by a Minor under the age of eighteen (18) years. With a minimum of discussion, the bill won the approval of the aldermanic Public Safety Committee at a meeting on Dec. 3.

“This is basically, in a nutshell, common-sense gun legislation at the municipal level,” 22nd Ward Alderman Jeffrey Boyd told committee members. He said that a state law that went into effect in January 2017 allows anyone who is 19 or older to carry a handgun without a permit. Those in the military can carry handguns without a permit at the age of 18 or older.

“But it mentioned nothing about juveniles. So they basically left it open,” Boyd said. “What we’re doing is, we’re taking advantage of that opening and creating our own ordinance.”

Kansas City has already passed such a bill, Boyd said. Efforts are under way to pass bills in Columbia and Springfield. 

“The mayors have gotten together in a cohesive group, which is phenomenal,” Boyd said.

Boyd also noted that federal law prohibits juveniles from having handguns except in certain specific circumstances. 

Boyd’s bill calls for a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail. 

“This bill is an exercise of the police power of the city of St. Louis with the goal of improving safety for all, creating a new tool to use against gun violence and averting future violence by addressing gun possession by minors” Boyd said. “This bill should have a powerful impact on our community.

“Some of the murders that are occurring in the city of St. Louis or some of the violence is due to juveniles’ being in possession of handguns. The more handguns that we can take out of the possession of juveniles, the safer the city of St. Louis will be.”

St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie M. Edwards said after Tuesday’s meeting that even without the law, he wanted officers to take guns away from children.

“We’re not going to allow children to walk around the city of St. Louis with a gun even now,” Edwards said. He said he’d put the onus on the guardians to file the suits needed to get the guns back.

Edwards said he hoped the leadership of the state would address the issue.

According to information in the bill, state law says that a person is not authorized to carry concealed firearms in “any place where the carrying of a firearm is prohibited by federal law.” The bill says that federal law says it’s unlawful for a juvenile to possess a handgun or ammunition for a handgun.

The exceptions include during employment, with the prior consent of a parent and in self defense against an intruder in the juvenile’s home. There also may be a transfer by inheritance of title (but not possession) of a handgun or ammunition. 

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com 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 www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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