St. Louis lawmaker wants Constitutional Carry carve-out

(AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)

Missouri has some of the strongest Second Amendment protections in the country, as well as a Republican-dominated state legislature, but one of the 10 Democrats in the 34-seat state Senate is trying to convince his colleagues across the aisle to undo the state’s firearm preemption law and allow the city of St. Louis to impose its own local restrictions on the right to bear arms.

St. Louis television station KMOV declares that Sen. Steven Roberts’ idea is leading to a “battle over guns and crime” at the statehouse, but that’s overstating things. There’s virtually no chance that Roberts is going to get what he’s demanding, and for good reason.

“It would create a conceal carry permit requirement if you want to conceal or open carry a firearm in public. If you want to keep a firearm in your house, personal safety, I understand,” Roberts said.

Right now, Roberts said if someone is walking down the street carrying a firearm, police cannot ask that person for registration, a permit, or use it as probable cause to further search or arrest that person. This law was put into place in 2017 and is called ‘Constitutional Carry’. It’s a law Roberts said he wants to move away from.

“It’s also an important way for law enforcement to distinguish lawful between unlawful gun owners,” Roberts said.

In other words, Roberts wants to exempt the city of St. Louis from the state’s Constitutional Carry laws, which is going to be complete non-starter for Republicans. Even if there was some way for this to only apply to St. Louis residents without impacting those who live outside the city, it still wouldn’t be worth supporting. You don’t give up your constitutional rights just because you live in a city, and any politician who would try to strip you of your rights because of the actions of violent criminals should be tossed out of office at the first opportunity.

Beyond the constitutional concerns (which frankly, are all that is needed to oppose this bill), there’s also the fact that despite Roberts’ claims that Constitutional Carry is tying the hands of police, homicides are actually trending down in St. Louis.

St. Louis criminal homicides fell about 26% last year — to 195 from 263 in 2020. That returned the city’s total to near its average in the five years before 2020. In each of those years, the city’s homicide rate led the nation’s big cities.

Still, 2021 moved in the right direction. For that, [police chief John] Hayden is thankful, he told the Post-Dispatch this week.

“That surge was definitely noticeable. I had a lot of sleepless nights.”

195 homicides is still far too many, and clearly there’s a lot more that can be done to make St. Louis a safer place, but re-criminalizing the right of legal gun owners to bear arms without a government permission slip isn’t going to help. While I’m sure that Chief Hayden, as a politically appointed chief, is happy to endorse whatever gun control measures are proposed by the mayor and city council, it’s also readily apparent that the reduction in homicides came not from cracking down on legal gun owners, but violent criminals.

The warmest months, which typically spark the most homicides, drove the city’s drop. From May through August last year, the city’s murder count fell by more than half to 63, compared with 136 in 2020.

Hayden said his department’s work targeting the most violent areas and people, as well as an easing of some desperation and anxiety caused by the pandemic, may be factors behind the reduction in murders.

“I think they’ll be studying that for a long time, but that’s at least one explanation,” he said.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones told the Post-Dispatch in an interview that changes her administration made in policing have moved the city’s homicide totals in the right direction.

Her public safety director, former St. Louis police chief Dan Isom, introduced new policing strategies over the summer, adding more officers on duty during high crime times and in areas where crime was spiking.

There’s nothing “new” about these strategies, though they might be newly deployed in St. Louis. But plenty of other departments around the country know that the most effective way to reduce violent crime is to pay attention to where crime is taking place. We see the philosophy at work in Dallas, Texas, where murders dropped substantially in the fall (after Constitutional Carry took effect in Texas, by the way).

Since the inception of Dallas police Chief Eddie Garcia’s new crime fighting plan on May 7, Dallas has seen a decline in homicides, robberies and aggravated assaults.

As part of the plan, police have been working to identify violent “hotspots” and have been increasing officer presence in 51 small grids out of 101,402 across the city. 

“It took getting a new police chief in here who believed in the importance of actually having a sort of kitchen sink approach to fighting violent crime and knowing that we needed to have a plan to address violent crime and to really get things moving in the right direction,” Johnson told Fox News Digital.

“Our chief is committed to making sure that we actually reduce violence by going where violence is and not pretending like we don’t know where the parts of our city are,” Johnson said. “The crime numbers are being driven by certain what they call micro-grids here in our city — small areas where if we target those areas, we can make a disproportionate impact on the overall crime rate.”

This isn’t rocket science. It’s common sense; you combat violent crime by targeting violent criminals, not legal gun owners. In a perfect world Sen. Roberts would scrap his idea for a Constitutional Carry carve-out for St. Louis on his own, but that’s not going to happen. Thankfully Missouri has enough pro-2A voices in the legislature that Roberts’ bad idea isn’t going anywhere but the state Senate trashcan.