Wednesday, July 17, 2024

St. Louis County wants to restrict open carry, but some worry about impact on Black men

St. Louis County is exploring legislation to combat gun violence, but some individuals are concerned about how it would affect Black men.

County Council Chair Shalonda Webb, a Democrat, said she had spoken with Cara Spencer, the city Board of Aldermen member who sponsored a bill that would limit open carry of firearms, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A second city gun-related bill would require police to provide more details to people they stop and search.

“The visions of teenagers walking the streets with guns and automatic weapons should be a concern for everyone,” said Webb, the Post-Dispatch reported. “St. Louis County residents should feel safe and free from threat in their homes and neighborhoods. I am looking forward to working with my colleagues on the council to produce legislation that moves the needle on this issue.”

St. Louis County open carry
St. Louis Alderwoman Cara Spencer sponsored a bill that would limit the open carry of firearms in the city. Another bill would require police to provide more details to people they stop and search. (Photo credit: Screenshot/ News)

Spencer, who lives in the city’s Marine Villa neighborhood, submitted Board Bill 29 in May after prominent pictures of young people carrying automatic weapons in the city center appeared online and in the media.

The measure would allow police to disarm an individual who is openly carrying a gun but cannot provide a concealed carry permit. Board Bill 82, introduced later, would mandate that the police force ensure that officers inform people that they are not required to consent to searches without warrants or probable cause.

Some board members feared Spencer’s bill might spark conflict between armed citizens and law enforcement. They expressed particular alarm for Black men, who they believe are already the targets of police enforcement.

In June, a shooting at a party left one teenager dead and 10 others injured. Alderman Rasheen Aldridge of Old North St. Louis introduced Board Bill 82 a couple of weeks later, and it sailed through the St. Louis board, easing uncertainty surrounding Spencer’s bill.

The board passed Spencer’s open carry legislation in late July. The two bills were sent to Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, who has until Aug. 9 to approve, veto, or allow them to take effect without her approval.

Elsewhere in Missouri, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas unveiled new initiatives to reduce gun violence. During the swearing-in ceremony Tuesday for his second term, Lucas said that he wants to outlaw ammunition sales to minors without parental permission and ban switches, which can convert a handgun into an automatic weapon.

Jones, who was at Lucas’ swearing-in, promised to cooperate with him to address gun violence but said she could not take significant local action due to state legislation.

Spencer said Wednesday that her legislation takes advantage of a provision in state law that permits local governments to prohibit open carry for those who lack a concealed carry permit.

Republican Councilman Dennis Hancock expressed interest in learning more about Webb’s proposal. He suggested that the County Council examine any policy that would increase public safety. However, he advised members to proceed with caution.

“We have to be careful when we start talking about restricting people’s Second Amendment rights,” said Hancock, the Post-Dispatch reported. “As we’ve seen before, the Legislature has a tendency, if St. Louis or St. Louis County decides to do something, to react pretty quickly to it.”

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