Should Kansas City have more say over guns? Democrats will push plan after mass shooting

Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, a Springfield Democrat, center, and fellow House Democrats push for legislation that would allow local governments to enact stricter gun regulations following the mass shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl victory rally.
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Missouri House Democrats on Monday outlined a proposed state constitutional amendment that would allow Kansas City and other local governments to set stricter limits on guns following the mass shooting last week at the Chiefs Super Bowl victory rally.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, a Springfield Democrat running for for governor, said Democrats plan to introduce measures on Tuesday that would restore the power of counties and cities such as Kansas City and St. Louis to set rules limiting guns.

Missouri, which has some of the loosest firearm regulations in the country, also severely restrains local municipalities from setting their own gun regulations. Lawmakers for decades have given themselves the power to set rules on firearms, leaving local officials relatively little leeway.

The proposed change to the state constitution would have to be approved by the GOP-controlled General Assembly and then again in a statewide vote. But it would not need approval from Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who in the past has signed legislation bolstering gun rights.

It would give “local control back to where it belongs: local elected officials who best know the needs of their community,” Quade told reporters during a news conference on the steps of the Missouri Capitol. The legislation will mirror a citizen-led campaign called Sensible Missouri that has stalled.

The Wednesday mass shooting in Kansas City, which killed one person and injured more than 20, has sparked fury from Missouri Democrats and gun control advocates who have for years railed against the state’s lax approach to firearms.

Debates over gun control, including potential legislation barring minors from possessing firearms, are all but certain to roil the Missouri Capitol in the coming weeks. But the bills face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, which has for years relaxed regulations surrounding guns.

Republicans last year, for example, voted down a proposal to ban minors from openly carrying guns on public land without adult supervision.

Kansas City’s ordinances address some gun regulations, including banning the transfer of firearms and ammunition to minors. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow the city to expand those laws.

Quade announced the planned legislation in Jefferson City in front of a crowd of fellow Democrats, many of whom were at the Chiefs parade when the shooting happened. Some wore all black clothing at Monday’s news conference.

“Every emotion that we are feeling, particularly those of us who were there, ranges from sadness, to fury, to anger, to disbelief,” Quade said. “I’m going to tell you this, I’m gonna let my caucus do whatever they feel like they need to do to represent their people.”

House Majority Leader Jonathan Patterson, a Lee’s Summit Republican, said the timing of the legislation, nearly two months into this year’s legislative session, would make it difficult to pass. Especially, he said, as gun control advocates are already pursuing a similar campaign.

In the wake of Wednesday’s shooting, Missouri Republicans have largely appeared hesitant or opposed to reopening the state’s gun laws. Republicans, including Gov. Mike Parson and House Speaker Dean Plocher, have either avoided the issue or pushed back on the idea of making changes.

A hard-right faction of Missouri Republicans, called the Missouri Freedom Caucus, last week also posted a series of debunked conspiracy theories on social media claiming one of the shooters was an illegal immigrant. The lawmakers who shared the posts included Republican Sens. Rick Brattin of Harrisonville and Denny Hoskins of Warrensburg.

“It’s disgusting,” Quade said of the posts. “Citizens deserve better than what these people who work in this building are giving.”

Patterson, appearing to go the furthest of any leading Republican in opening the door to changing state law, said late last week that House Republicans would no longer pursue a bill that would allow guns on public transit and inside churches and another that would exempt firearms and ammunition from sales taxes.

He indicated a willingness to examine gun laws as one of several topic areas that should receive attention in the wake of the shooting.

“House Republicans will continue to stand for law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights here in Missouri. But anytime you have an event like we did last week, I think every lawmaker should be willing to take a sober look at policies,” Patterson said in an interview with reporters on Monday.

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

Patterson said that he made the decision not to pursue the two bills after offering “thoughts and prayers” to Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, who opposed the legislation.

“How could we take up a bill that he specifically has said Kansas City does not want?” Patterson said. “I just thought that would be very disrespectful to do that.”

Democrats have filed nearly 30 bills this year seeking to change state laws around guns. But Quade suspects Republicans won’t end up taking action. She called for Missourians to elect people who want change.

“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.”