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Shooting in the Wrong Direction

You either think the rough justice of the Wild West works or you don’t. We don’t. And most law enforcement officials don’t either.

Yet Missouri continues to move further down the line toward frontier law. Last year, over gubernatorial veto, the General Assembly adopted a law that come 2017 will allow many Missouri residents to carry a gun without permit or training.

And the onslaught continues. One of the latest examples came last week, when a freshman representative to the Missouri General Assembly, Rep. Nick Schroer (R – St. Charles County) pre-filed a bill that would allow businesses that opt not to allow guns on their premises to be sued for injuries that occur as a “result” of that ban.

Experienced law enforcement officials are deeply concerned about the proliferation of uncontrolled gun possession. As St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said to KMOV (Channel 4), “So now every officer that does every car stop, that stops any pedestrian has to assume that that person is armed, has to assume that person has no level of training, has to assume that there’s a gun involved. It makes the officers’ jobs much more difficult. It puts them on edge because we’re fearful of what we don’t know.”

Dotson added, “I think if we want to start feeling safer what we need to do is start addressing the criminals who are using the guns and not introducing more guns.”

Ironically, it is Schroer who also introduced one of two bills making targeted shooting of police a hate crime. “The issues that are going on right now with our law enforcement and first responders are just beyond me,” Schroer told the Associated Press. “We need to keep them free and keep them out of harm’s way the best that we can.”

But how exactly do these bills help if the landscape for gun use in Missouri is vastly unregulated and if many experienced officers believe there are far too many unidentifiable guns in circulation? Sure, it provides another count to charge someone with once caught, but does it reduce the potential of criminals seeking out law enforcement officers? Hardly.

Schroer’s actions came the same week that Sheena Greitens, wife of the Missouri Governor-elect Eric Greitens, was robbed at gunpoint in the Central West End. While the assault upon the governor-elect’s wife brought public attention to the issues associated with guns, no one, gun-control advocate or not, wants to see that kind of event occur,

So said state Rep. Stacey Newman, a Democrat and a staunch supporter of various gun-control measures, in an open letter to Greitens, a Republican, to stress the importance of dealing with gun violence in his role as governor. “It is not an experience that anyone should face and I’m relieved that she and the other nearby robbery victim were not harmed.”

But Newman stressed that Greitens’ upcoming statewide duties give him an opportunity to seriously consider gun-related issues. “Once inaugurated next month, you soon will have the power, ability, and the responsibility to address gun violence…There are concrete solutions to lowering our death rates, simply keeping firearms from those who should not have access to them.”

Newman noted that a large majority of Missourians approve of federal background checks, and that individuals who have a history as domestic abusers or are on no-fly lists should be precluded from purchasing guns. 

Newman also pointed to the impact gun violence has on public health. Washington University’s Gun Violence Initiative recognizes that from a medical perspective, there are thousands of patients who arrive in hospitals for treatment due to firearm use. And this applies not only to assaults outside the home; suicides, domestic violence, and child-related accidents are also prevalent causes of gun-inflicted harm.

This publication has not taken a stand against gun ownership, but only that it must be accompanied by reasonable regulation that minimizes the death and violence resulting from weapon possession. Active background checks, proper training and permitting, and waiting periods are certainly within the realm of rational regulation.

Schroer’s liability bill, and the recently adopted bill removing licensing and training for much public carry, go in the opposite direction. They further endanger Missourians and have little if no social science data that support the expanded safety net for gun owners. If only those who suffer from gun-related violence had such an effective safety net, Missouri would be a better place for us all.