St. Louis aims to ban AR-15s, AK-47s, mayor says


Mayor Tishaura O. Jones on Tuesday announced plans to ban “military-grade” weapons on city streets, including the prominent AR-15 and AK-47 model rifles.

And before the day was over, the state’s top law enforcement officer was threatening to stop her.

Jones said a bill will be introduced at the Board of Aldermen in the coming days. The legislation will also aim to stop minors from getting guns, crack down on the proliferation of gun-making kits used to skirt federal possession bans, and rein in random gunfire on New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July, she said.

Jones acknowledged the bill could prompt blowback from Republicans in state government, who she criticized for dismantling gun regulations and blocking the city from enacting its own. She said she expected the same treatment with the new legislation. But she said people wanted something done.

“We’re ready to fight like hell at the local level to prevent gun violence, protect our babies, and to keep our communities safe,” Jones told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.

The announcement marked the city’s latest attempt to chip away at a problem that costs it north of 100 lives per year and handicaps efforts to bring new companies and jobs here. It could also address rising concerns about juveniles with guns punctuated earlier this summer when 11 teenagers were shot in a downtown office building.

And it appeared to have support at the board: Five aldermen — Pam Boyd, of Walnut Park East, Shameem Clark Hubbard, of the West End, Tom Oldenburg, of St. Louis Hills, Alisha Sonnier, of Tower Grove East, and Daniela Velázquez, of Shaw — stood alongside Jones as she made her announcement. Aldermen just last month unanimously passed a bill from Alderwoman Cara Spencer, of Marine Villa, to crack down on open-carry in the city.

But on Tuesday, area Republican legislators were unconvinced.

“I’m going to be skeptical of anything the mayor wants to do on gun control,” said State Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester. “I believe in our Second Amendment.”

State Rep. Jim Murphy, of south St. Louis County, said the mayor’s plan is illegal under his reading of state law.

“She can talk all she wants,” he said. “She has no right to do it.”

He said the city should enforce the laws it has, like curfews for juveniles, instead.

Attorney General Andrew Bailey said the same thing in an email to Jones posted to social media. He vowed to resist “any effort to infringe on the right of the people of Missouri to keep and bear arms.”

“I encourage you to go after criminals, not guns,” he wrote.

Even if the proposed regulations are enacted and survive a challenge from the legislature and the courts, their effect could be limited. Despite their prominence in America’s mass shootings, including the incident at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School last year, AR-15s are not commonly used in street shootings. In fact, 90% of the guns seized by St. Louis police last year were pistols, according to department data.

And cities like Chicago have struggled to enforce bans on firearms sales when neighboring jurisdictions have looser laws, which the outlying counties in the St. Louis region are likely to have.

Still, Alderwoman Alisha Sonnier, of Tower Grove East, said the city had to try all available options to rein in gun violence. She recalled how the mother of the Central Visual shooter asked police to take away her son’s AR-15 before he got into trouble, but police said state law tied their hands.

“To live through that situation and not want to do everything you can to change it would be ridiculous,” she said.

Rick Rosenfeld, a longtime criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, liked what he saw. It would be good to have fewer AR-15s and AK-47s on the streets, he said. It could also cut into the amount of television footage featuring teens carrying them down city streets, fostering a sense for lawlessness. And anything making it harder for kids to get guns would be a positive step, he said.

“No one of them is an immediate solution,” he said, “but they move us in the right direction.”

Rosenfeld is also working on a state ballot initiative that would give St. Louis and other cities far more discretion with their gun laws.

The bill from Spencer, which Jones signed last month, had similar aims to Jones’ proposed legislation. Spencer’s bill banned the open carry of firearms without a government-issued concealed carry permit, which is not available to minors. But it did not address concealed weapons, which enjoy broad protections under state law.

The new legislation would, Rosenfeld said.


(c) 2023 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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