Those who decry the partisanship, divisiveness and lack of action in Washington, D.C., should take solace in the Missouri Legislature’s special session.
It’s possible to be equally ineffective when one party controls the levers of power and people generally get along. All you need to know about this state’s special legislative session, which seemed as long, meandering and forgettable as the Tour de France, was that it prompted this quote from a governor who’s seeking re-election and needs something to run on:
“You’re not going to hit a home run every time in this building.”
Missouri spent $200,000 on a special session and got the legislative equivalent of a Texas-leaguer, one of those those little bloopers that falls harmlessly in front of the right fielder.
It’s something, yes, but not quite everything that Missourians might have expected when legislators were called to address violent crime in the state. It was issue that needed attention, with gun violence on the rise in the state’s two biggest cities, but lawmakers didn’t exactly square up on this one.
Missouri does get two things from the special session, and both are helpful. Both chambers passed a bill that removes a requirement for St. Louis police and first responders to live inside the city limits. Lawmakers also agreed to create a fund to protect witnesses and their immediate family members leading up to a criminal court trial or during investigations, although the fund is unfunded at this point.
The cutting-room floor includes proposals to prosecute some juveniles as adults for crimes committed with weapons, toughening the penalties for selling or giving firearms to someone under the age of 18 and criminalizing the act of aiding anyone under 17 who commits a crime with a weapon.
Then there was the measure, added during the season, to allow the Missouri attorney general to intervene in a St. Louis murder case. The proposal on concurrent jurisdiction may have sent this session, which seemed aimed at common-sense changes to the criminal code, down a rabbit hole of cultural battles sweeping the nation during the summer of BLM protests. Prosecutors, who should be on board with any tough-on-crime approach in the state capital, came out against it.
Perhaps elected lawmakers were deluding themselves in believing they had the answers to solving the problem of violent crime in all part of the state. Perhaps all of us were guilty of being too eager to believe them.
All of these proposals contained merit and deserve consideration in a regular session, but in reality the battle against crime is won and lost at the local level, where prosecutors, police and communities work together to address the causes and effects of gun violence.