In addressing urban gun violence, city and state leaders took a novel approach.
They listened to the person on the other side of the table.
It would seem premature, even naive, to assume big-city Democrats and the state’s Republican leadership somehow buried all their differences and cracked the code of eliminating gun violence. We’re entering an election year, after all, which means that all bets are off.
But the outcome of recent meetings with Gov. Mike Parson and mayors of the most violent Missouri cities (note that St. Joseph wasn’t on the list) provides a sense of hope that two sides can move past entrenched positions. Perhaps lawmakers can reach a consensus on an issue that splits among urban and rural lines as much as the partisan Democrat and Republican divide.
“I’m optimistic we’ll get it done,” the Republican governor said.
Late last week, Parson met with police chiefs and city leaders from St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield. They suggested expanded funding for community mental health treatment as well as state legislation designed to keep firearms from minors, domestic abusers and violent offenders.
These are reasonable steps that address mental illness — a topic that Republicans tend to emphasis in the gun violence debate. It also looks to mirror federal law instead of expanding state statute into completely new areas of gun regulation.
In the meantime, a Senate Interim Committee on Public Safety began meeting last month to discuss solutions to gun violence. That committee, which includes Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, is expected to release a report next month when the 2020 session begins.
Luetkemeyer, a Republican representing Buchanan and Platte counties, has cautioned against sweeping, feel-good legislation that punishes rural gun owners without impacting root causes of urban gun violence. He identifies a need to toughen penalties and close a revolving door of probation for offenders who commit violent crime with guns.
His proposal, dubbed the Missouri Criminal Street Crime Gangs Prevention Act, also deserves consideration. Much work needs to be done, and surely Missouri legislators understand that a single law isn’t going to end the scourge of gun violence in big cities.
They also know that the U.S. Supreme Court, since the 2008 Heller decision that affirmed the right to bear arms in the home, has been less clear on the legality of broader gun-control measures implemented in big cities.
But lawmakers from all parts of the state are correct to identify gun violence as an issue that deserves attention in the 2020 session. We’re encouraged that they’re focused on practical problem solving instead of scoring political points.