JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s Republican-led House on Wednesday voted against banning minors from openly carrying firearms on public land without adult supervision.
The proposal to ban children from carrying guns without adult supervision in public failed by a 104-39 vote. Only one Republican voted in support of it.
Democratic Rep. Donna Baringer said police in her district asked for the change to stop “14-year-olds walking down the middle of the street in the city of St. Louis carrying AR-15s.”
“Now they have been emboldened, and they are walking around with them,” Baringer said. “Until they actually brandish them, and brandish them with intent, our police officers’ hands are handcuffed.”
Missouri lawmakers in 2017 repealed concealed carry requirements in most situations.
The measure was part of an hours-long House debate on the best way to fight crime, particularly in the St. Louis area.
Republican Rep. Lane Roberts —- a former Joplin, Missouri police chief and state public safety director — initially included the restrictions on children possessing guns in a broader crime bill, which the House voted to give initial approval to later Wednesday. But lawmakers on a House committee that Roberts leads stripped the provision on guns last week.
“Every time we talked about the provision related to guns, we knew that that was going to be difficult on our side of the aisle,” Roberts said Wednesday.
Republicans decried the effort as an unneeded infringement on gun rights.
“While it may be intuitive that a 14-year-old has no legitimate purpose, it doesn’t actually mean that they’re going to harm someone. We don’t know that yet,” said Rep. Tony Lovasco, a Republican from the St. Louis suburb of O’Fallon. “Generally speaking, we don’t charge people with crimes because we think they’re going to hurt someone.”
Other provisions in the measure would allow the governor to appoint a special prosecutor in counties with high crime rates, a provision targeted at St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.
Republican lawmakers for years have criticized Gardner, a 47-year-old Democrat first elected in 2016 as St. Louis’ first Black female prosecutor.
She is one of several progressive prosecutors elected in recent years with a focus on creating more fairness in the criminal justice system. But Republican lawmakers say she’s not doing enough to fight crime.