We welcome Gov. Mike Parson's call for a special session to address violent crime, and we hope lawmakers are willing to take serious measures to address a mounting problem in our state.
Kansas City has seen a 35 percent increase in homicides this year, and St. Louis homicides have spiked 31 percent. Violent crime was a problem before these elevated numbers. It's past time for our state to seriously address the issue.
Missouri "is on track to have its deadliest year on record, having already experienced more homicides in the first half of 2020 than the entire year of 2019," Parson said in a proclamation.
It's not just an issue for the big cities. Jefferson City police are investigating the city's latest homicide, which took place Wednesday.
A generation ago, it was unusual for our police reporters to come across a "shots fired" incident, much less a homicide. But gun violence and subsequent deaths seem all too common now.
Parson is calling for lawmakers to address six concerns by amending or adding new sections to five areas of state law.
As outlined in a news release from his office, Parson is calling on lawmakers to:
Eliminate the residency requirement for St. Louis law enforcement "so long as the officer lives within an hour of the city. This proposal would also prohibit requiring any public safety employee for the city of St. Louis to be a resident of the city."
Require courts to "determine if a juvenile should be certified for trial as an adult for the offense of unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action."
Allow certain statements by witnesses to be admissible in court that would otherwise not be allowed under current law.
Create a "Pretrial Witness Protection Fund."
Modify the offense of endangering the welfare of a child "for a person who encourages a child to engage in any weapons offense."
Increase the penalty for a person who knowingly sells or delivers a firearm to a child without the consent of the child's parent or guardian.
These measures, put together, will make a difference. But not enough. Only this last measure would potentially have a direct impact on keeping guns out of the wrong hands.
In coming days, we plan to share more specifics of what we believe needs to be done to combat our culture of gun violence. In the meantime, let us know what you think. Send us a letter to the editor at [email protected]