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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson calls special session of legislature addressing violent crime

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 1:49 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 15, 2020 at 4:09 PM CDT
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri Governor Mike Parson is calling lawmakers back to Jefferson City July 27.

The sole reason? Handle the rise in violent crime.

”We cannot continue to let violent criminals destroy our cities and get away with it,” Parson told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

St. Louis has had 31 more deaths compared to this time last year. Kansas City just surpassed 100 homicides for 2020.

Parson said stopping this trend is more than just a big city problem.

Governor Mike Parson addresses the media.
Governor Mike Parson addresses the media.(KY3)

”It is a Missouri problem and we cannot wait until next session to address it,' Parson said.

He wants lawmakers to focus on six different things.

He wants to better protect and empower witnesses, create stronger punishment for kids who use weapons and those who encourage it, and crack down on illegal gun sales.

He also wants to allow St. Louis officers to live up to an hour outside city limits. Currently, officers are required to live in the city.

Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams supports those ideas.

”Some of those things specifically, the witness protection program, to provide some funding for law enforcement to keep people safe and bring people forward to testify and get some violent criminals off the street, I think, is number one,” Williams said.

Springfield averages 12 homicides a year. Right now, Williams said it is at 11.

”For us, a smaller, mid-major city, that’s huge,” Williams said. “So, reducing that, or stopping that trend and reversing it, I think is a success.

”In a statement, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said democrats urged the governor for reform last year, but he refused.

“A year ago, House Democrats implored Governor Parson to call a special legislative session on the epidemic of gun violence across our state. He refused. Much like with the COVID-19 pandemic, his failure to act has resulted in needless loss of life and no clear path to preventing more.

“We had hoped the governor’s special session call would be motivated by a desire to save lives. Instead, he only seeks to distract from his bungled response to the pandemic, and the generational economic devastation resulting from it, with misinformed tough-on-crime rhetoric that will solve nothing.

“Diminishing the voice of Black communities, who are disproportionately affected by both the pandemic and the epidemic of gun violence, will not make Missouri safer. When this session begins, House Democrats will continue to advocate for fact-based policies to reduce gun violence and reform a criminal justice system that too often preys on people of color.”

House Minority Leader, Rep. Crystal Quade (D)-Springfield

Parson believes these six ideas will work.

”None of us, no matter where we’re from, want to see our children being shot in the streets. That’s not who we are in this state,” Parson added.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway, the Democrat likely challenging Parson for his office in November also released a statement.

“After advancing failed policies for almost two decades in Jefferson City, Governor Parson has finally realized that Missourians need action on the heartbreaking violence plaguing our communities. Last year, when Missourians pleaded with the Governor for a response to children being murdered by gunfire, he said he had to stay in his lane and instead called a special session about tax breaks for used cars and yachts. Then, the Governor promised our mayors that he would support legislation addressing gun violence — only to break his promise and deny he ever made it.

As a legislator, Governor Parson voted in favor of making guns easier for criminals to acquire even when law enforcement begged him not to. It’s well past time that Governor Parson got serious about violence in Missouri.

We’ll see just how serious he is this time about the biggest issue of all: finally taking common-sense action to get weapons off our streets.”

Nicole Galloway, (D) Missouri Gubernatorial Candidate

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Edited News Release/KY3) -

Missouri lawmakers will reconvene later this month to consider ways to stem the escalating violence that has become especially deadly in St. Louis and Kansas City, Gov. Mike Parson announced Wednesday.

The special session that starts July 27 will be singularly focused on violent crime. But unlike some other states that are considering police reforms in the wake of racial injustice protests, Missouri lawmakers will focus on measures that could strengthen laws and put more people behind bars.

While the worst of the crime is in St. Louis and Kansas City, Parson called it a "Missouri problem."

"All of this is unacceptable," Parson said. "We are better than that in Missouri, and we must hold violent criminals accountable for their actions."

St. Louis and Kansas City both had among the highest homicide rates in the nation in 2019, and the trend is far worse in 2020.

St. Louis has recorded 130 killings, including four more Tuesday night, compared to 99 at the same time in 2019, and is on pace to easily exceed the 194 homicides of last year. Mayor Lyda Krewson, a Democrat, has said the violence is "devastating our communities and our families."

Kansas City has recorded 101 killings so far in 2020, 26 more than by this time a year ago. Kansas City ended 2109 with 150 homicides.

Both cities have tried various measures to stem the violence. St. Louis is using a program called Cure Violence, in which workers are trained to deescalate conflicts and to try and convince people to turn away from violence in high-crime areas.

A new Kansas City program announced by the White House last week, Operation Legend, will bring in more than 100 agents from the FBI and other agencies to battle violent crime.

Many leaders in St. Louis and Kansas City have noted that the rise in violence has coincided with a 2017 law that allowed Missourians to carry guns without permits, training or background checks.

"That really made it hard for our city and our communities because guns are our problem," Rosilyn Temple, executive director of the anti-violence group KC Mothers in Charge, said of the law.

Parson, a staunch gun rights supporter, said the special session "is not the time" for lawmakers to consider changing state law to allow local jurisdictions to enact gun laws tougher than the state's, as some urban leaders have suggested.

Parson's likely opponent in the November general election, Democratic State Auditor Nicole Galloway, said in a statement that it was "well past time that Governor Parson got serious about violence in Missouri. We'll see just how serious he is this time about the biggest issue of all: finally taking common-sense action to get weapons off our streets."

Parson said weeks of racial injustice protests, which began after George Floyd's death in Minnesota on May 25, have taken a toll on police departments.

"They are maxed out to the limit," he said. "They have been dealing with protests for months. They have been dealing with crime underneath the blanket of peaceful protests, along with the violence that goes on every day in their jobs."

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade of Springfield, a Democrat, accused Parson of "tough-on-crime rhetoric that will solve nothing."

"Diminishing the voice of Black communities, who are disproportionately affected by both the (coronavirus) pandemic and the epidemic of gun violence, will not make Missouri safer," Quade said in a statement.

Parson has also heaped criticism on St. Louis' top elected prosecutor. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump spoke by phone with Parson about Trump's concerns that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner could file charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey, a white couple who displayed guns as protesters marched by their mansion on June 28.

Parson said Tuesday that the McCloskeys "had every right to protect their property."

Gardner has not said if she'll file charges but said the incident is under investigation.

___

AP reporter David A. Lieb in Jefferson City, Missouri, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 KY3. All rights reserved.

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