Brass knuckles

The internet, we’ve learned by now, is a bottomless pit of information. One site, devoted to offbeat weapons like Medieval swords and axes, includes a few factoids about brass knuckles.

It seems the metal knuckle coverings emerged as a weapon of some utility in hand-to-hand combat during World War I. Today, these devices are outlawed in many states but achieve some value as a rogue accessory among “elite and fashionable gangsters, hustlers, pimps, players and other socialites.”

There you go. Missouri has that going for it.

It’s safe to say that things didn’t turn out as planned for the 2020 legislature. Gov. Mike Parson’s budget assumptions were millions of dollars off kilter and lawmakers took an extended break because of the coronavirus. They returned to the state capital with the same deadlines for passing a budget and giving final passage to legislation.

That means it’s crunch time. Some bills get left on the cutting room floor in a normal year, but the public is going to be in a forgiving mood because of this year’s special circumstances. Besides, Missouri’s lawmakers seem more active and productive than those in the nation’s capital.

Still, one vote last week might strike some as a sign that Missouri’s lawmakers could use some help with time management and prioritization.

Much was made of the House vote to legalize the possession of brass knuckles for those with concealed-carry permits. The amendment, part of a larger measure dealing with public safety, will have no major impact. It’s still illegal to use these weapons in a crime, and there doesn’t appear to be a rush to acquire a pair. One lawmaker called brass knuckles a “piece of metal with some holes in it.”

Fair enough, this may not lead to a spree of beatings. The problem, for lawmakers, is more the optics than the practicalities.

In January, the governor outlined urban violence, infrastructure and education as top priorities. In these parts, some will be watching for measures to improve broadband access in rural Missouri, extend a sales tax to internet commerce, address the Grain Belt Express controversy or shield health providers from lawsuits related to the treatment of COVID-19 patients. (A tax exemption for stimulus payments did pass Friday.)

It’s a lot. As always, not everything is going to pass. For lawmakers, they run the risk of every failure being linked with a public safety bill loaded with a Christmas tree of amendments, including the one appealing to fashionable gangsters. If your bill dies on the vine, then you’re likely to mutter two words: brass knuckles.

Maybe it’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. With one week to go in this session, it’s time to get down to brass tacks.