As the coronavirus pandemic continues to force people to shelter in place, gun violence of all types has not stopped— including in Missouri. The Kansas City Star reported that “even as coronavirus cases continued to multiply in Kansas City, homicides claimed more lives than COVID-19 during the last several weeks.” Meanwhile, St. Louis County Police saw a 17 percent increase from last year in domestic violence calls in March and the first two weeks of April.
Like states around the country, Missouri has seen a rise in gun sales. According to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the number of background checks conducted in the state during March 2020 was 48 percent higher than in March 2019.
Over 1100 Missourians are shot and killed every year, giving Missouri the fifth highest rate of gun deaths in the United States. The rate of gun deaths in Missouri increased 56 percent in the last decade, compared to an 18 percent increase nationwide.
Retired St. Louis Police Chief Daniel Isom penned an op-ed about the increased risk of gun violence and the need for responsible gun ownership as Missourians continue to purchase firearms amid the coronavirus pandemic. In the piece, published last week, Isom said:
“As the retired police chief of St. Louis, I’m concerned that the record-setting gun sales we’re seeing are bringing unique risks into American homes that threaten to compound an already devastating public health crisis. And as a longtime gun owner, I hope those buying guns right now take seriously the critical responsibilities that come with keeping a firearm at home — responsibilities that are even more important in these unprecedented times.”
“Stay inside, follow instructions, and watch out for family and friends. If you’re a gun owner, protect everyone in your home by storing your firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition. In these challenging times, all of us should be leaning on the professional law enforcement officers who are trained and risking their lives for public health and safety everyday. They need us.”
Read full op ed here.
This legislative session, Missouri lawmakers had the opportunity to pass bills to help keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. Similar policies have been proven to prevent gun violence in other states and could have protected women and families during this high risk time. Even after over 400 Missouri Moms Demand Action volunteers advocated for legislation to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers, lawmakers failed to schedule even one hearing on any of the five bills that, if enacted, would protect Missouri communities.
Instead, lawmakers spent the legislative session advancing bills that would make it illegal for Missouri state and local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of federal public safety laws, and several bills to allow more guns in public spaces. While the bills are in various stages in the legislature, some have advanced as far as the House floor and could be voted on when the legislature reconvenes.
Last summer, Governor Parson announced his support for gun safety legislation that would prohibit domestic abusers from possessing firearms. Yet Missouri lawmakers have not made strides to pass a domestic violence bill, and Governor Parson has since reversed his position.
If you have any questions, or would like to speak with volunteers with Missouri Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action or survivors of gun violence, please don’t hesitate to reach out.