JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Parson’s special session on violent crime is in its sixth week after lawmakers broke each of the provisions into separate bills.
The House passed five of the governor’s six provisions last week and now the bills are in the Senate’s hands. Two Senate committees met Tuesday to discuss the measures and it sounds like more changes could be coming to some bills.
Representatives voted last week on House Bill 16, which would make it legal to give guns to kids without their parents’ permission. In the Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, senators said they want to reverse the House’s provision.
“The idea that just because someone is a grandparent or an uncle is a good person is not reality,” Sen. Bill White, R-Joplin, said. “The way this is written, there is no longer a penalty if the House version should pass. I could give anyone n this chamber any one of the guns I own in my house.”
Bill sponsor Rep. Nick Schroer, R-St. Charles said he believes there is room for some change in the bill.
“In hindsight, there could have been a better way to address this,” Schroer said.
Schroer and other Republicans in the House were concerned that current law would mean grandparents or aunts and uncles could be charged with a misdemeanor for taking a child out to shoot a gun without their parents’ consent.
“Our phones have been writing off the hook this morning with this bill,” White said. “There is a concern more than addressing one issue, that it opened it up to a much boarder potential injury.”
The committee decided to add back the bill’s provision, making it a misdemeanor to give a child a gun without parents’ permission.
Another major topic of discussion during the two hearings was residency requirements for St. Louis City’s public safety workers.
St. Louis City Police Chief John Hayden spoke during the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee hearing Tuesday on House Bill 46.
“The number one barrier in recruitment for more officers is the city’s residency rule,” Hayden said. “Needless to say, our officers are physically, emotionally and spiritually drained. We desperately need more officers and we need them now.”
Those in opposition of this bill want voters to decide in November when there’s a question on the ballot asking about residency requirements.
“Save the city,” said Arnie Dienoff, in opposition of the bill. “They need these public safety employees to live in their neighborhoods to guard and protect these neighborhoods and to safeguard them from harm.”
Hayden also mentioned the department’s loss of 29-year-old Officer Tamarris Bohannon over the weekend while responding to a shooting in the city.
“Tragedy struck again when a gunman opened fire on two of our officers just this past Saturday evening,” Hayden said. “That’s seven officers shot, one officer shot and killed in the line of duty and one retired captain shot and killed in the past three months.”
Hayden said the department is short 145 officers as of Sunday, Aug. 30.
“Additionally, an unprecedented surge in gun violence over the past 12 weeks, St. Louis has averaged nine homicides per week, bringing us up to 183 homicides compared to 137 at the same time last year,” Hayden said.
House Bill 11, increasing the penalty of endangering a child’s welfare, House Bill 2, tampering with a witness, and House Bill 66, creation of a witness protection fund, were also passed out of the committees.
All five bills are headed to the Senate floor and are expected to be voted on Wednesday, Sept. 2.