Gun Docket: Proposal to Revamp Firearms Prosecution in St. Louis Advances in Senate

State Senator Eric Schmitt. - via
State Senator Eric Schmitt.

It has been a particularly heated week for gun debates. In Missouri, a Republican outcry about gun owner privacy in Missouri sparked a major policy change and a high-profile resignation. Nationally, the U.S. Senate failed to pass a background check proposal, angering even some longtime NRA members.

But with a whole lot less fanfare, Republican State Senator Eric Schmitt has pushed forward with a legislative proposal this week that he hopes could have a significant impact on reducing violence by revamping the prosecution of firearm offenses.

And he's got the support of many high-profile officials in St. Louis, including Mayor Francis Slay, Judge Jack Garvey, Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce and Police Chief Sam Dotson.

As we reported last month, Schmitt's Senate Bill 448 creates a so-called "special armed offender docket" in the circuit court of St. Louis city. The idea is to take a more targeted approach to gun violence by assigning two dedicated judges to offenses involving guns through a special docket.

The aftermath of a shooting at the Stevens Institute of Business and Arts in St. Louis this year. - Photo by Josh Rowan
Photo by Josh Rowan
The aftermath of a shooting at the Stevens Institute of Business and Arts in St. Louis this year.

The thinking is that this reform could allow the courts to better track and study trends of gun violences, helped in part by having judges with more institutional knowledge about the problem and offenders before them. (And the bill includes a provision that every six months, the court would publish a formal public report on the docket).

"The gravity of the problem deserves a unique solution and I think we have it here," Schmitt tells Daily RFT. "It's really important for people in the city to feel safe working there and living there...and for us to get a handle on gun violence."

As his Republican colleagues continue to advance more symbolic proposals to protect the Second Amendment and block all gun control, Schmitt has had some success moving his bill forward -- but time is running out in the final weeks of the session.

On Wednesday, his bill was voted out of the Senate judiciary committee by a vote of six-zero and his office is now pushing to get it the floor for a full vote. That move out of committee came after a hearing in which key officials from St. Louis spoke out in favor of the idea.

In a recent interview, Slay tells Daily RFT that this is a unique opportunity for a city reform that could help tackle the problem of gun violence.

Continue for our interview with Mayor Slay and for the full proposal.

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