Missouri’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives has voted against a proposal that would have banned children from carrying guns in public unless they had adult supervision.
There is currently no age minimum to openly carry a gun in Missouri.
The proposal went down to defeat in a 104-39 vote this week. Only a single Republican voted for the amendment, even though the change was initially touted as a “bipartisan” effort.
Calls for change were triggered after a number of holdups by armed young teens. Videos have captured groups of children openly carrying rifles, including assault-style weapons, as they walk the streets of St. Louis.
Democratic state Rep. Donna Baringer, who sponsored the amendment to a public safety bill, said that police in her district asked for the change. “We have 14-year-olds walking down the middle of the street in the city of St. Louis carrying AR-15s,” she said officers told her. “What has happened to us?”
She added: “Now they [the children] have been emboldened, and they are walking around with them. Until they actually brandish them, and brandish them with intent, our police officers … are handcuffed,” The Associated Press reported.
Republican opponents blasted the proposed change as an unnecessary infringement on gun rights.
“While it may be intuitive that a 14-year-old has no legitimate purpose, it doesn’t actually mean that they’re going to harm someone. We don’t know that yet,” argued Republican state Rep. Tony Lovasco, who represents a St. Louis suburb.
“We don’t charge people with crimes because we think they’re going to hurt someone,” he added, AP reported.
Since 2017, after Republicans overrode a veto by then-Gov. Jay Nixon (D), Missouri residents have not been required to take safety training, to undergo a criminal background check, or even to have a gun permit to carry concealed firearms in most public places. The move was celebrated by Republicans — but not by law enforcement.
Shooting down the slightly safer gun law comes a month after Missouri Republicans in the state House sparked heated controversy after voting to require that female lawmakers must cover their arms when in the chamber.
The House eventually approved a “modified” version of the proposal, allowing women to also wear sweaters as well as jackets to hide their arms, The Washington Post noted. There are no similar requirements for men.