ST. LOUIS (AP) — Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday pledged more resources and help from the Missouri Highway Patrol to counteract a rash of gun violence and child killings that have shaken St. Louis, but he remained noncommittal on whether cities should be able to enact their own gun control laws.
The Republican met a group of mostly black faith leaders in St. Louis, along with Mayor Lyda Krewson.
After the meeting, Parson said he would seek funding to curb violence and address long-term solutions such as education and job training. He said state troopers will patrol St. Louis highways to help free up police.
St. Louis leaders want a change in state law to allow cities to pass more stringent gun laws than the state. Parson would say only "it is going to have to go through the legislative process to change that."
At least one faith leader seemed disappointed.
"We asked the governor to be a champion for our community around the issue of commonsense gun laws," the Rev. Darryl Gray said. "We didn't get a commitment from the governor today to be that champion."
But Gray said it was heartening to hear Parson recognize the violence isn't just an urban issue.
"Black babies being killed on their porches and in their backyards is a Missouri issue," Gray said.
St. Louis and Kansas City rank among the most violent cities in the nation, and both are on pace to top last year's homicide totals. But what has been particularly heartbreaking in St. Louis is the number of children killed.
Twelve children age 16 and under have become victims of homicides this year. All 12 were black, as were 121 of the city's 138 homicide victims so far in 2019.
Krewson called the meeting with Parson "productive" and said she pushed for one particular change: To allow St. Louis to require a concealed carry permit. Missouri changed its law effective in 2017 so that a permit is no longer required.
"When you are a victim of gun violence, when someone in your family is a victim of gun violence, it changes your life forever," Krewson said.
Parson said one thing the state can do immediately is assign state troopers to patrol St. Louis area highways, freeing up city police to fight violent crime.
The meeting Thursday came two days after Parson heard a similar plea for help from members of Missouri's Legislative Black Caucus in Jefferson City.