The Republican-led House in Missouri on Wednesday voted against a proposal to ban minors from openly carrying firearms without adult supervision in public.
The proposal failed by a 104-39 vote, with only one Republican state representative voting in support of it.
Democratic state Rep. Donna Baringer told the Associated Press that police in her district were concerned about “14-year-olds walking down the middle of the street in the city of St. Louis carrying AR-15s,” and are demanding change.
“Now they have been emboldened, and they are walking around with them,” Baringer said regarding concealed carry by children in Missouri. “Until they actually brandish them, and brandish them with intent, our police officers’ hands are handcuffed.”
In 2017, Missouri lawmakers voted to repeal concealed carry requirements in most situations.
The House debate on the issue lasted hours, with lawmakers discussing the best way to fight crime, specifically in the St. Louis area.
Republican state Rep. Lane Roberts, a former police chief, initially included the restrictions on children carrying guns in a wider crime bill, which the House voted to give initial approval to on Wednesday. However, lawmakers on a committee that Roberts leads removed 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 told the outlet on Wednesday.
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Republicans who voted against the measure called it an unnecessary 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,” Rep. Tony Lovasco, a Republican from a St. Louis suburb, told the AP. “Generally speaking, we don’t charge people with crimes because we think they’re going to hurt someone.”
Another provision in the measure would allow the governor of Missouri to appoint a special prosecutor in counties with high crime rates, which many interpreted as a hit to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.
Republican lawmakers have criticized Gardner since 2016 when the Democrat was elected as St. Louis’ first Black female prosecutor. Her main goal as a progressive prosecutor has been to create more fairness in the criminal justice system, but many Republican lawmakers say she hasn’t done enough to fight crime.
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