Missouri Democrats hope to put gun safety measure on ballot following Kansas City shooting

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A memorial sits outside Union Station days after a Johnson County mother was killed in a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl LVIII victory parade. Twenty-two others, including several children, were wounded (Anna Spoerre/Missouri Independent).

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Republicans are shelving bills allowing concealed weapons in churches and exempting firearms from sales tax to avoid a public “freak out” in the wake of Wednesday’s mass shooting during the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl celebration, Missouri House Democrats said Monday.

During his weekly news conference Monday, House Majority Leader Jonathan Patterson, a Lee’s Summit Republican, said the bills have merit but are opposed by Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Democratic leader Crystal Quade of Springfield, at a press conference calling for stricter gun laws, said GOP leaders are worried about voter reaction if they move legislation to loosen restrictions on firearms.

The GOP’s real worry, she said, is losing the supermajority of more than two-thirds that they enjoy.

“All they care about is winning their elections,” Quade said. “That’s it.”

The bill allowing guns in churches, which is awaiting debate near the top of the House agenda, would also allow people with a concealed weapons permit to carry a gun on public transit. It would also lower the age for obtaining a concealed weapon permit to 18 and loosen the restrictions on when someone should be denied a gun because of a past criminal conviction.

“The thing that really struck me was that we offered the Kansas City mayor thoughts and prayers, and then how could we take up a bill that he specifically has said that Kansas City does not want?” Patterson said at his weekly news conference. “I just thought that it would be very disrespectful to do that.”

 House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, at podium, speaks about gun control legislation she and other members of the Democratic caucus will introduce in the aftermath of shootings at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl victory celebration (Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications).

Republicans are not concerned about whether Lucas or other local officials support or oppose any measure, Quade said at a news conference with most members of the Democratic caucus.

“That is not an honest answer,” she said. “The real answer is that they know that if they move those bills right now that the public will freak out. They know that we will freak out.”

The explosion of gunfire stemming from a personal dispute between two juveniles left one woman dead, 23 wounded and 16 suffering from other injuries sustained in the effort to flee. It put a pallor of tragedy on a celebration that brought hundreds of thousands together to revel in a rare repeat championship.

There was little direct discussion of the Kansas City tragedy in the state Senate. The Senate remembered the dead and injured with a moment of silence before resuming debate on legislation to make it harder to pass a constitutional amendment.

Long before the shootings, officials in the state’s major cities were asking for authority to write local gun laws that are stricter than state laws. 

Quade said Monday she is introducing a proposed constitutional amendment granting that authority and it will be similar to an initiative currently being circulated to allow cities to regulate concealed weapons, cooperate with federal law enforcement on gun investigations and seize weapons in certain circumstances.

State law currently requires cities to allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to openly carry a firearm in any city and bars police from stopping anyone carrying a gun unless there is suspicion of criminal activity.

“Last year, we tried to offer an amendment to make it so that law enforcement officers, when they see a juvenile with a gun, they can take the gun from them,” Quade said. “And they said no, they were okay with children walking our streets with guns and they said that on the floor.”

Two juvenile suspects are in custody in the shooting but restrictions on information about juvenile offenders means most details have been withheld. 

Kansas City has an ordinance banning minors from possessing concealable guns “without the consent of the minor’s custodial parent or guardian.” The city’s ordinances allow a juvenile to be charged with unlawful possession of a gun unless the young person “has the prior written consent in the minor’s possession at all times when a handgun is in the possession of the minor.”

The House on Monday approved a bill that makes minor changes to penalties for gun law violations. If enacted into law, the bill includes a ban on celebratory gunfire known a “Blair’s Law;” increases the penalty for unlawful use of a firearm and using a gun in commission of a crime; and make adults criminally liable for gun crimes committed by juveniles if it is proven they encouraged the criminal behavior.

The bill passed on a 126-20 bipartisan vote, but not until after a debate in which Democrats painted Republicans as indifferent to the violence stemming from easily available firearms.

“I would hope that you all would listen to children who got shot and hear their cries and hear how they had to protect their friends from bleeding out,” state Rep. Emily Weber, a Kansas City Democrat, said. “I hope that you would sit and listen to them but you don’t.”

Republicans counter-attacked that Democrats were grandstanding for bills that would not change behavior.

“There’s always a call for stricter gun laws,” said state Rep. Ben Baker, a Neosho Republican. “It’s the almost immediate reaction by many in this body when something happens like this but the fact is no law that we could pass in this body would have prevented the terrible tragedy that happened last week.”

Patterson told reporters Monday afternoon that he would have an open mind about advancing legislation Democrats would support.

“We should be willing to look at gun policy, social policy, mental health policies, public safety and crime policy to address those problems,” Patterson said.

The promise to discuss is actually a promise to do nothing, Quade said.

“What’s gonna happen is we’re gonna stand here and we’re gonna yell over the next few weeks we’re going to cause as much chaos as we can to try to get them to draw attention to this and do something,” Quade said. “They’re going to offer thoughts and prayers, and say now’s not the time, don’t politicize this, and then move on about their day.”

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