Democrats break House decorum over gun legislation

By Quinn S. Coffman, Missouri News Network
Posted 2/19/24

JEFFERSON CITY — House Democrats, many dressed in mourning black, railed against their Republican counterparts on Monday for failing to pass legislation that they say could have protected the …

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Democrats break House decorum over gun legislation


JEFFERSON CITY — House Democrats, many dressed in mourning black, railed against their Republican counterparts on Monday for failing to pass legislation that they say could have protected the victims of last week’s mass shooting in Kansas City.

The House floor erupted with shouting from both sides of the aisle during debate over a House public safety bill, breaking decorum and causing Speaker of the House Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, to gavel the chamber back into order multiple times.

Democrats used the debate on final passage of HB 1659 as an opportunity to broach the larger issue of gun control in Missouri, after last week’s mass shooting at the Kansas City Chief’s Superbowl victory parade.

The omnibus bill includes language that would punish gun owners who negligently shoot a firearm in “celebration” within the boundaries of a municipality. This piece of legislation, commonly known as “Blair’s Law,” was part of an omnibus crime bill vetoed last year by Gov. Mike Parson for other reasons.

House Republicans see “Blair’s Law” as a “common sense” gun reform.

Rep. Chad Perkins, R-Bowling Green, criticized several Democratic representatives for not supporting the bill this year and in the past.

Democrats, however, focused on the fact that Republicans won’t put forward any other bills addressing steps they think could help stop mass shootings.

In a news  conference held by House Democrats earlier Monday, minority leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said the Republican supermajority has been more interested in posturing to voters before primary season than passing comprehensive gun legislation.

“I don’t assume the Republicans will do anything about this,” Quade said. “They haven’t for years, they’ve just been going backward. We have been filing these bills for a very, very long time, and are filing another one today.”

The bill that Quade, who is running for governor, plans to sponsor would return control of gun regulation in part to local municipalities. Democrats have highlighted this “local control” legislation as one that actually addresses the root causes of last week’s mass shooting.

Majority House Leader Rep. Johnathan Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit, said that while his party is interested in protecting Missouri’s Second Amendment rights, now is a time for legislators to “take a sober look” at policies that affect the lives of everyday Missourians.

According to Patterson, House Republicans will stop pursuing specific gun bills that would have allowed Missourians to carry firearms on public transportation, like city buses. The majority leader said that honoring the wishes of Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas in the wake of last week’s shooting was a major motivation.

“The thing that really struck me was that we offered the Kansas City mayor thoughts and prayers,” Patterson said. “Then how could we take up a bill that he specifically has said that Kansas City does not want? I just thought that would be very disrespectful to do that.”

Patterson however, questioned if anything the legislature could pass would have prevented the parade shooting.

He listed gun laws at both the state and federal level that should have kept Missourians at the parade safe last week, but obviously didn’t. These ordinances included prohibitions against displaying weapons, openly carrying weapons, and possessing weapons as a juvenile.

Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, echoed Patterson’s sentiments on the House floor.

“There’s always a call for stricter penalties by members of this body when something happens like this,” Baker said, “but the fact is no law that we can pass in this body would have prevented the terrible tragedy that happened last week.”

Several Democrats immediately responded to Baker’s comments with shouts of “lies!” before being called into order by the speaker.

At the Democratic news conference, Quade responded to these Republican comments that laws alone couldn’t have prevented last week’s shooting.

“What the hell are we doing as lawmakers?” Quade said. “Then why are we here at all?”

Among the 28 gun bills that have been introduced by House Democrats, local control over gun regulation and keeping guns out of minors’ hands seem to be priorities.

Quade brought up examples of legislation on both of these topics that were presented last session but were quashed by Republicans.

An initiative petition is being organized around giving local governments more control over guns, sponsored by the Missouri gun-control advocacy group Sensible Missouri.

In addition to opposing the guns on buses bills, Lucas testified in favor of local control legislation from last session.

The events of the last week have been reminiscent of many prior mass shootings, with both camps of legislators grieving the victims before returning to their entrenched positions with little hope of passing relevant laws.

When asked what Democrats could do to make progress on legislating gun control, Quade said the super-minority party is very limited.

“What’s it going to take (to make change)?” Quade asked. “Elect different people who actually listen and aren’t worried about their next paycheck, (or) who’s financing their campaigns, but who actually listen to the voters and people who want change.”