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Missouri Black Caucus Frustrated After Meeting With Governor On Gun Violence

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson speaks to news reporters on the last day of the legislative session in Jefferson City.
File | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Gov. Mike Parson, seen here on the last day of the 2019 legislative session, met with the Legislative Black Caucus to discuss urban gun violence on Tuesday.

Leaders of the Missouri Black Caucus met with Gov. Mike Parson to talk about gun violence but left without much hope for stricter gun control.

The topic was discussed Tuesday, but state Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove, D-Kansas City, said the governor did not see legislative interest in making changes. 

“There was discussion, but he seemed to be disheartened about his sway and making gun control an issue that we take over at a state level,” she said. “He likes background checks, but he is concerned if he can make other people move based on their Second Amendment rights.” 

Republicans hold a supermajority in both legislative chambers and are generally against gun control laws.

But state Rep. Richard Brown, D-Kansas City, who attended the meeting, said it’s time to move past that thinking. He said he’s “watching people die every day.” 

“My concern is what is the body count going to be by the end of the year, between now and the time that we go into the regular session?” Brown said. “I’m concerned about saving lives right now. As I’ve explained to the governor, you are the leader of this state. I need you to take a stance and move this state forward.” 

Brown said the governor was interested in discussing so-called “wraparound services” to stem violence. This includes workforce development, mental health services and community service programs. The idea is that with good-paying jobs or better access to health care, this may deter violence. Brown said this not good enough. 

“For years, we’ve been spending money to try to do wraparound services and try to help people, but again, what are the measurable outcomes of those programs?” he said. “My concern is trying to do something right now that’s going to help people in those communities.” 

Brown suggested allowing municipalities like St. Louis and Kansas City to be able to require permits to carry a concealed weapon or restrict the sale of ammunition to anyone under 21. 

Although the meeting did not produce any of the initiatives Brown would like to see, state Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, said it was a starting point. 

“That’s what this meeting was about,” Bosley said. “To try to find those avenues where we can come together as a General Assembly, as the Black Caucus, as St. Louis city and Kansas City, to find functional things that work.” 

Members of the caucus, including Bland Manlove, are still asking the governor to add gun violence and gun control measures to the agenda for the special legislative session that’s scheduled for next week. 

“Children are still dying,” she said. “Kansas City is up to 149 homicides for 2019.”

Last week, Parson said the special session is not an appropriate time to deal with such a contentious issue. As of now, a car sales tax technicality will be the only item discussed. 

The governor was not available for comment after the meeting, but has said he expects to discuss gun violence in the regular legislative session beginning in January.

Follow Jaclyn on Twitter: @DriscollNPR

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Jaclyn is the Jefferson City statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.