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St. Louis aldermen pass law limiting who can openly carry guns, blocking teens 18 and under

Handgun illustration, guns
LA Johnson

Updated July 20 with final passage of bill

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has sent restrictions on who can openly carry firearms in the city to Mayor Tishaura Jones.

The outcome of Thursday’s vote was not in doubt; members of the board last week voted to make every member a sponsor of the legislation. It blocks anyone without a concealed carry permit from openly carrying a weapon, with some exceptions.

That means almost everyone under the age of 19 could be ticketed or fined if they are seen openly carrying.

Police will be required to track enforcement of the legislation, including race and gender. They will also have to note whether they issued a violation.

Jones says she is still reviewing the legislation.

Original story from July 14

Legislation that would limit who can openly carry weapons in the city of St. Louis appears on a glide path to the desk of Mayor Tishaura Jones.

Aldermen gave the measure initial approval on Friday without opposition. A final vote will come next week.

“This is not going to overnight address the violence in our communities, but it is a tool," said 8th Ward Alderwoman Cara Spencer, sponsor of the bill. “It is a path forward. It is a way to say we don't want the open carrying of firearms in our neighborhoods and our cities."

The measure makes it a violation of city ordinances for someone to openly carry a firearm without a concealed carry permit. There are exceptions, including for law enforcement and active military.

Alderman Bret Narayan of the 4th Ward said he generally tries to avoid approving legislation that will limit constitutional rights, calling himself “unapologetically American” on many things.

“The only reason that I was really able to get behind this is because this is about kids carrying guns in our city,” he said. State law prohibits someone under the age of 19 from getting a concealed carry permit.

Police tape and squad cars block off Central Visual and Performing Arts HS, where a gunman killed at least two people, on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, in south St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Police tape and squad cars block off the south St. Louis campus that houses two St. Louis high schools that were the scene of a mass shooting on Oct. 24.

In asking to be a cosponsor, Alderman Joe Vollmer of the 5th Ward hearkened back to the attack at Central Visual and Performing Arts and Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience in October.

“In my ward last fall, a teenager walked to a school with an automatic weapon and 600 rounds of ammunition. And he was completely legal until he actually fired the gun,” he said. “This is one of the most devastating things I've ever been part of in my life."

Opposition to the legislation initially ran deep among members of the Black Caucus, who worried about whether it would be fairly enforced. But language that requires officers to track enforcement of the legislation, including race, gender and whether they issued a violation, helped to alleviate concerns that the policy would turn into the next stop-and-frisk.

“When we had that first committee hearing, I was like ‘no, this is not coming out,’” said Alderman Rasheen Aldridge of the 14th Ward. “I actually respect the alderwoman from the 8th more for really listening to those concerns and allowing some amendments from her colleagues. She has put a lot of work and conversation in with us to ensure that we can get to a spot that is comfortable.”

The mayor’s director of communications, Nick Desideri, said in a statement that the office is “reviewing this legislation as well as any safety or operational concerns it could pose to the public and officers. We continue to explore every avenue to implement effective commonsense gun safety laws in St. Louis despite the state’s strict preemption laws.” The vote total on Friday would be more than enough to override a veto.

If Jones signs the bill, St. Louis would join Kansas City and other local governments with similar limits.

'Right to know' bill

Also on Friday, aldermen gave a first-round endorsement to legislation that requires police officers to tell residents they can refuse a consent search or a request from a police officer to look in a bag or car without a warrant or suspicion of a crime. The officer would also have to give the person a business card with their badge number and the contact for the Civilian Oversight Board.

“When I've talked to people in the community, they didn't know that they have a right to not even allow a search to happen if [the officer] doesn’t have a warrant or if they don’t have a violation,” said Aldridge, the 14th Ward alderman. “So this is just putting it in law so people can know their rights.”

Alderman Tom Oldenburg of the 2nd Ward cast one of two no votes.

“I believe that it's rushed. I believe that it is a solution that's in search of many problems,” he said.

Charter commission nominees

David Dwight IV, Executive Director, Forward through Ferguson
Lindy Drew
Humans of St. Louis
David Dwight IV, the former executive director of Forward Through Ferguson, is one of nine members of the commission reviewing the charter of the City of St. Louis. Aldermen approved their nominations on Friday.

The nine members of the city’s new charter commission will be able to begin their work as scheduled next month after aldermen on Friday approved their nominations.

Nominees came from nine of the city’s 14 wards The members include well-known names like former International Institute CEO Anna Crosslin and David Dwight IV, the outgoing executive director of Forward Through Ferguson.

With the help of technical and legal support staff, the members will review the city’s foundational document and draft any proposed changes that will then go to the voters. Their first meeting will be Aug. 15, and they have to complete their work within a year.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.