As the St. Louis mayor pushes legislation that would prohibit “military-grade weapons” on city streets and make it a crime for “insurrectionists” and those convicted of hate crimes to possess firearms, Missouri's attorney general is warning that such a law would violate the state constitution.
Mayor Tishaura Jones announced the wide-ranging legislation Tuesday, noting support from several members of the Board of Aldermen. The board could begin considering the measure at its next meeting, on Sept. 15.
“We come together around a shared vision: a safer, stronger St. Louis, ready to stand up for our values," Jones said in a statement.
Specific details of the measure have not yet been released, such as how “insurrectionists” would be identified and what “military-grade weapons” would be banned.
Still, the proposal drew immediate rebuke from Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who wrote in a letter to Jones that he will “resist any effort to infringe on the right of the people of Missouri to keep and bear arms.” He did not elaborate on what specific action might be taken, and his office didn't immediately reply to a Wednesday email seeking further information.
“It is my hope that you will reverse course and use existing law to combat the crime plaguing your city, rather than choosing to target the rights of law-abiding Missourians. In other words, I encourage you to go after criminals, not guns," Bailey wrote.
Though St. Louis officials are elected in a nonpartisan format, Jones is a Democrat and all 14 aldermanic board members are either Democrats or independents.
St. Louis is annually among the cities with the nation's highest homicide rates. City leaders have been trying for years to persuade Missouri's Republican-led Legislature to enact stricter gun laws, but without success. The state has among the most lenient gun laws in the nation.
A Missouri law adopted in 2017 allows people to carry concealed guns in public without having to go through a background check or get a permit.
A 2021 law banned local police from enforcing federal gun laws. A federal judge in March ruled that the 2021 law was unconstitutional, but it remains in effect pending the outcome of appeals. Republican lawmakers who helped pass the bill said they were motivated by the potential for new gun restrictions under Democratic President Joe Biden, who signed the most sweeping gun violence bill in decades last year.
In February, the Missouri House voted down a bipartisan proposal that would have put limits on when and where minors may carry guns. St. Louis officials renewed calls for action after one teenager was killed and 10 others were hurt at a downtown party that devolved into a shootout on June 18. Survivors ranged from ages 15 to 19.