Opening day of legislative session yields few clues on specific measures to address violent crime in Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The 2020 Missouri legislative session is officially off and running as lawmakers here handled the largely ceremonial acts which come with the first official day of work at the Capitol. The Bill of Rights was read aloud. Lawmakers introduced family and friends. It felt like the first day of school for many.

FOX2 asked lawmakers from both parties about the road ahead this session when it came to issues of violent crime, following more than 190 homicides in the city of St. Louis, and concerns which have developed in Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia.

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden (R-Boone County) told FOX2 that legislation under a traditional interpretation of “gun control” would likely be considered a non-starter in both the Missouri House and Senate, where Republicans hold super-majorities and have vowed to protect the 2nd Amendment, something House Speaker Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield) reinforced when FOX2 asked if there were any bills that were either “non-starters” or candidates for further discussion. He did cite the need for additional support for authorities when it comes to witness support.

State Senator Bill Eigel (R-St. Charles County) said Wednesday he supports sentencing reform that would make sure criminals served sentenced consecutively instead of concurrently in addition to providing law enforcement with the resources needed to fight crime. Longer-term, Eigel supports the idea of using tax reform to grow economic opportunities in areas like St. Louis.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) said Democrats would continue to push for what she called “common sense” gun reforms to keep guns out of the hands of bad actors, she also pointed to the need to address root causes of crime. “We need to be having conversations about funding after-school programming, looking at the root causes of poverty and addiction and the things that we know lead to the violence,” she said.

Two of the newest members of the Missouri House representing the St. Louis area have filed bills that each hopes can get traction despite being in the minority. State Representative Rasheen Aldridge, Jr. (D-St. Louis) pre-filed legislation that would require gun owners to report stolen weapons within 72 hours. State Representative Trish Gunby filed a bill that would provide tax credits for purchases related to gun safety.

A spokeswoman for Governor Mike Parson would not comment Wednesday when asked if he would detail support for specific proposals to address violent crime in his State of the State address next week.

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