Black Missouri lawmakers and GOP Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday met in an attempt to find common ground to stop gun violence in a state led by strong Republican defenders of gun rights.
A string of recent child homicides in St. Louis drew attention to gun violence in Missouri's largest cities. Twelve children age 16 or younger have been killed in St. Louis this year, all of them black. Kansas City is on pace to top last year's homicide rate of 143.
Kansas City Democratic Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove said members of Missouri's Legislative Black Caucus talked with Parson about gun control policies and other possible solutions during the meeting in his Capitol office.
But in a state where the Republican-led Legislature 2016 passed a law allowing people to carry guns without a permit , enacting any restrictions on gun access is an uphill battle.
"He seemed to be disheartened about his sway in making gun control an issue that we take over at a state level," Bland Manlove said.
Parson has instead pitched deploying the Missouri Highway Patrol, as well as access to jobs and education as possible long-term solutions. He told reporters last week that cooperation between federal, state and local officials is necessary.
"This is going to be a combined effort to do this," Parson said. "It's unfortunate, but I think right now everybody realizes we all gotta put our best game on now to find a solution to this problem. We're going to do our part from the state."
The closed-door meeting with black lawmakers came days after the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus asked Parson to add gun control to the agenda for a special legislative session scheduled for next week.
The group in particular wants to allow municipalities to enact their own gun laws. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, for example, requested that lawmakers let her city and others require concealed weapon permits.
But Parson hasn't budged on his refusal to expand the special session. He previously told reporters that the issue should be dealt with when lawmakers return for their annual, roughly five-month session beginning in January.
That's left some lawmakers, eager to take action, frustrated.
"What is the body count going to be between now and the end of the year? Between now and the time that we go into regular session?" Kansas City Democratic Rep. Richard Brown said after meeting with Parson. "I'm concerned about saving lives right now. As I've explained to the governor, 'You are the leader of this state. I need you to take a stance and move this state forward.'"
Lawmakers might act on the issue without a directive from Parson.
Republican Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Senate Republicans next week will debate whether to form a special committee to investigate gun violence before the session begins.
St. Louis Democratic Sen. Jamilah Nasheed had requested a special panel to look into the issue, the newspaper reported .