ST. LOUIS — From huge rewards to calls for allowing Missouri cities to enact their own gun laws, leaders in St. Louis and Kansas City are grappling with a troubling rise in shooting deaths, especially those involving children.
This past weekend was especially violent. In Kansas City, four men were killed in two separate shootings on Sunday.
St. Louis is offering $25,000 rewards for information in four recent fatal shootings of children. At least a dozen children have been shot to death in St. Louis since April, including 8- and 10-year-old girls killed over the weekend.
The Missouri Legislative Black Caucus, made up of 19 black state lawmakers, is asking Republican Gov. Mike Parson to add to a September special session consideration of a law allowing cities to adopt their own gun control measures.
Missouri Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Steven Roberts, who represents District 77 in St. Louis, asked Parson to "add consideration of a law to allow municipalities with high incidents of gun violence to pass their own gun control legislation" in a letter sent Monday.
"Kansas City and St. Louis have shamefully and consistently ranked in the top ten deadliest cities for at least the past ten years," Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove (D-Kansas City) said in the statement. "This is now a public health crisis. With double-digit numbers in both cities of children being murdered, it's time to give individual municipalities the ability to regulate how weapons flow through our neighborhoods. We must change the law now."
The Black Caucus includes several local representatives — including Bland Manlove, who serves as vice chair, Rep. Richard Brown (D-Kansas City), who serves as treasurer, Rep. Jerome Barnes (D-Raytown), Sen. Kiki Curls (D-Kansas City) and Rep. Barbara Washington (D-Kansas City).
"Children are dying from gun violence in Kansas City and St. Louis," Brown said. "Our communities are calling on their elected leaders to do something and we hear them. As a state, we must act swiftly and responsibly by allowing our local municipalities to draft gun laws that best protect and serve those communities."
Parson's office issued a statement Monday afternoon denying the Black Caucus' request.
"While the issue of how to reduce violence in our urban areas certainly needs addressed, there are also many different opinions on how to find a solution," Parson said in the statement from his office. "However, special session is not the correct avenue. If we are to change violent criminal acts in Missouri, it will take all of us at the federal, state, local, and community levels working together toward that common goal."