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Missouri lawmakers start work on special session addressing violent crime

Published: Jul. 27, 2020 at 5:50 PM CDT
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri lawmakers returned to the State Capitol Monday to begin work on a special legislative session addressing the rise in violent crime.

The start of the session comes after a deadly weekend in St. Louis. Police say at least seven people were killed, and nearly 24 others wounded in shootings across the city.

It’s something both lawmakers and Governor Mike Parson want to stop.

“St. Louis had 194 homicides in 2019. One of the highest murder rates in the country,” said Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, on the Senate floor. “Missouri has the third highest murder rate in the country. We have seen our lives and our property and those of our constituents threatened like never before by an out of control crime epidemic.”

Parson wants lawmakers to focus on six 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. Right now, they’re required to live in the city to work as an officer.

Senator Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, filed bills addressing many of these ideas.

Senators Jill Schupp, Andrew Koenig, Bob Onder, Bill Eigel, and Brian Williams also filed legislation Monday.

Koenig, Onder, Eigel, and Schupp filed bills unrelated to violent crime as well. Parson said those bills will not be considered.

“I haven’t seen anything the legislators have introduced. I’m telling you we’re narrowly focused on the points we have in front of us right now.” Parson told reporters Monday afternoon.

Williams, the lone Black man in the Missouri Senate, filed a bill he says will hold law enforcement agencies accountable, and ensure communities are safe.

“What my bill would do is one, I think address some of the concerns we all have. Which is, ensuring we have a safe community which also ensures we are enabling the community to feel comfortable coming forward to talk with law enforcement to address things like violent crime,” Williams, D-University City, said on the Senate floor. ”I also believe what this would do is prevent Missouri from being in a situation similar to what happened in Minnesota. As we all know, what happened with George Floyd could have been avoided, and I believe that this bill that I have in legislation that I am proposing will open up an opportunity for Missouri to avoid running into a situation similar to that.”

Williams’ bill may be outside of Parson’s purview for this special session, but he feels it is just as important.

“I don’t see how we tackle violent crime if the community doesn’t trust the police department,” said Williams. “Police reform is the right direction.”

There will be a hearing of the Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee Tuesday afternoon starting at 12:45 p.m. in the Senate Chambers. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, seating will be limited to the public, but the hearing will be live-streamed on the Senate’s website.

The full Senate will not return until August 5, with an eye on finishing work by August 7.

The full House of Representatives is not scheduled to return until August 12.

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