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St. Louis County Council votes to limit open carry of weapons

Councilwoman Shalonda Webb, D-St. Louis County, prepares for the June 1, 2021 meeting of the St. Louis County Council.
Jason Rosenbaum
St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis County Council has approved legislation sponsored by Shalonda Webb, D-St. Louis County, pictured in June 2021, that limits the open carry of weapons.

On the first anniversary of a school shooting in St. Louis, the St. Louis County Council has approved limits on who can openly carry a weapon in unincorporated areas.

The council’s four Democrats voted to send the measure to County Executive Sam Page, who is expected to sign it. Two Republicans voted no, while one abstained.

“We can't sit and do nothing any longer,” said the bill’s sponsor, 4th District Councilwoman Shalonda Webb, D-St. Louis County. “And I'm willing to take this chance especially because I know I have the support of the police department. And I have the support of my community. And I want them to know your protection and your safety is just as important.”

Webb’s bill is similar to a measure that passed in the City of St. Louis earlier this year. Only people with a concealed carry permit would be allowed to openly display weapons in unincorporated areas, with some exceptions. Adults who violate the law could face a fine of $500 and a year in jail, while juveniles would face a fine and community service.

Republicans like 7th District Councilman Mark Harder, R-Ballwin, warned their colleagues they would probably be sued. He also said the law likely wouldn’t do much good.

“The state does not want a patchwork of laws, when you can go two blocks in either direction and be in a different jurisdiction in St. Louis County,” Harder said. “The other issue here is that, as was said before, criminals are still criminals. And for a $25 fine, what difference does it make?”

Twenty-five dollars is the minimum fine.

Webb pointed out that the county also risks a lawsuit over its property tax break for senior citizens.

“We'll take a chance on being sued on the seniors, but we won't take a chance on saving someone's lives to be sued,” she said.

The measure had the support of the chief of police and the union representing county officers.

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