(The Center Square) – Gov. Mike Parson announced a special session for lawmakers to focus on addressing crime in Missouri.
The legislative session will begin July 27. Parson joined with Missouri Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten, Missouri State Highway Patrol Colonel Eric Olson and law enforcement officers for the announcement this week at a news conference.
“As Governor and a former law enforcement officer for more than 22 years, protecting our citizens and upholding the laws of our state are of utmost importance to my administration,” Parson said. “We know we have a serious problem with violent crime here in Missouri that must be addressed. Violent crime has been a problem in our state long before COVID-19, and we have seen it escalate even more in recent weeks, specifically in our big cities.”
In Kansas City, homicides are up 35 percent from last year. There have been 101 homicides in 2020. In St. Louis, officials reported 130 homicides so far this year compared to 99 at the same time in 2019. Parson said violent crime is also up in St. Louis and St. Louis County
“These are just the grim numbers, but the effects of violent crime across our state are best measured in lives – lives lost, futures cut short, and families hurting,” Parson said. “All of this is unacceptable. We are better than that in Missouri, and we must hold violent criminals accountable for their actions.”
The governor said the crime problems in the state have not been limited to St. Louis and Kansas City.
“It is a Missouri problem, and we cannot wait until next session to address it,” he said. “It must be addressed now, which is why we are having this special session.”
Parson called for six provisions to be considered:
- Police and Public Safety Employee Residency Requirements for St. Louis – The proposal to be considered would eliminate the residency requirement for St. Louis law enforcement so long as the officer lives within an hour of the city. This proposal would also prohibit requiring any public safety employee for the city of St. Louis to be a resident of the City.
- Juvenile Certification: This proposal requires the court to determine if a juvenile should be certified for trial as an adult for the offense of unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action.
- Witness Statement Admissibility: This proposal would allow certain statements to be admissible in court that would otherwise not be allowed under the existing statute.
- Witness Protection Fund: This proposal creates the Pretrial Witness Protection Fund.
- Endangering the Welfare of a Child: This proposal modifies the offense of endangering the welfare of a child for a person who encourages a child to engage in any weapons offense.
- Unlawful Transfer of Weapons: This proposal would increase the penalty for a person who knowingly sells or delivers any firearm to a child without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian.
Calls for police reform that have been the focus of recent protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death won’t be part of the conversation.
“There are going to be a lot of questions asked about the other things that are being talked about with the things that involve the protests around the state,” Parson said. “Those issues will come. Those conversations will take place, but they need to take place in a legislative session where there’s time to deal with it.”