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St. Louis Leaders Call On Parson To Reconsider Special Session On Gun Violence

St. Louis faith leaders, elected officials and community leaders gathered at Lane Tabernacle CME Church to address the city's gun violence among children. August 30, 2019
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis faith leaders, elected officials and community leaders gathered at Lane Tabernacle CME Church to address the city's gun violence.

Two days after Gov. Mike Parson rejected calls for a special session to address gun violence, elected officials, faith leaders and doctors in St. Louis asked him to reconsider. 

On Friday, more than two dozen St. Louis leaders urged Parson to seek a special session so lawmakers could pass legislation allowing municipalities to enact their own gun regulations. That's unlikely, given that a state law bars cities from passing local gun control laws.

They also called for an emergency meeting between local elected officials and community leaders before the Legislature meets in September to consider overriding Parson’s vetoes of bills that state lawmakers passed in the regular session.

More than a dozen children have been killed by gun violence in St. Louis since April.

“What we’re asking [Parson] to do is to meet with federal leaders, with state leaders, with local leaders, with community leaders, and to do it immediately,” said the Rev. Darryl Gray of the Missouri Progressive Baptist Convention. “We had 19 babies who were killed because we talked about the problem but could not come together to find solutions.”

Gray and other leaders also asked Parson to designate at least $2 million of emergency state funding toward the nonprofit Cure Violence program, which addresses gun violence as a health issue.

Parson, a Republican, said earlier this week that he would not ask legislators to hold a special session on gun violence. Instead, he said cooperation among local, federal and state governments is key to reducing violence. 

“[In a] special session, you want to do something in the limited time you think you can get a fix to,” Parson said Wednesday. “I’m not for sure you get anything from a special session on the gun violence.”

U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-University City, said if Parson doesn't act, local leaders will need to take immediate action to reduce gun violence.

“We will have to redouble our efforts here in the community by supporting law enforcement by maybe enhancing some type of witness protection so that the people in this community have real trust,” he said.

Clay said Republican leaders in Congress also need to take action to protect people from gun violence.

A bill in the House of Representatives introduced by Clay would allow municipalities to create and regulate their own gun laws. The bill has support from more than 20 Democrats in the House. Clay said the country and the community have reached a “tipping point.”

"We have allowed a culture of easy access to guns to devolve into an epidemic of gun violence,” Clay said. “This is a public health emergency, and that’s how we need to approach it at all levels of government.”

Community leaders also called on Mayor Lyda Krewson to implement policies aimed at reducing gun violence, including establishing a commission on youth services. Krewson said Wednesday that she supports Clay’s bill that would allow municipalities to enact gun laws.

Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis

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Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.