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Missouri Gun Violence: Republicans And Democrats See Different Paths To Solution

State Sen Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, presents his legislation to lengthen sentences for armed criminal action to the Senate Judiciary committee on Jan. 21, 2020.
Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio
State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, proposed legislation that would increase the penalties for armed criminal action in an effort to clamp down on gun violence across Missouri.

Missouri lawmakers are still at odds on how to solve the spike in gun violence and gun deaths in St. Louis and other urban areas. 

On Tuesday, House Democrats held a press conference highlighting gun control legislation they believe will address the violence. 

“Perpetrators of gun violence deserve harsh punishment, but what Missouri needs most are policies that help prevent shootings from ever taking place,” said House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield.

Legislation filed by Democrats includes red flag laws, strengthening background checks, prohibiting anyone on the No-Fly List from accessing firearms and keeping handguns out of the hands of minors

Quade said her caucus is working with House Republicans, but none has publicly supported any of the proposals yet. 

Republican Gov. Mike Parson previously publicly expressed support for some red flag laws and stricter background checks but has since backed away from that stance

“Some of these things that we’re asking for does not infringe on people’s Second Amendment rights,” said Rep. Richard Brown, D-Kansas City. “The things that we’re asking for are common-sense gun legislation to keep people safe.” 

But less than an hour later in a committee hearing, some Senate Republicans laid out one of their ideas to combat the violence: locking up violent offenders longer. 

Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, also said it’s time for “common-sense” approaches. His idea is to reform Missouri’s criminal code.

“The justice system has stopped locking up many of the people that we’re scared of,” Luetkemeyer said. “We must shift our focus towards policies that deter people from committing violence and remove violent offenders from our streets.”

His proposal would lengthen the sentence for armed criminal action from three years to no less than five years for a first offense, 10 years for a second and 15 for subsequent offenses. 

Also heard in the committee was legislation from Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, that would increase penalties for unlawful possession of a firearm by someone convicted of a “dangerous felony, a crime of armed criminal action, or trafficking drugs” from a Class D felony to a Class C felony. 

The penalty for this crime includes three to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Involuntary manslaughter is considered a Class C felony in Missouri.

Follow Jaclyn Driscoll on Twitter: @DriscollNPR

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