The Lack of Gun Control in Missouri and its Impacts

A quadruple shooting occurred in downtown St. Louis during a vigil. Two women and one man were severely injured; one man died. “Our city mourns last night’s attack on those who came together for a peaceful vigil,” Interim Public Safety Director Dan Isom said. “One homicide is one too many, and any efforts must take into account the needs of these communities and address root causes of crime – poverty, housing instability, and more – across St. Louis.”

The recent shooting generated criticism of Missouri’s gun control policies. 2020 marked the deadliest year for gun violence in Missouri, with approximately 700 Missourians shot and killed by a firearm. According to Kaitlin Washburn and Humera Lodhi, reporters at The Kansas City Star, more than 250 of those homicides happened in St. Louis. By the end of 2020, Missouri had the third-highest per-capita rate of gun deaths in the United States.

According to Michael Sean Spence, community safety initiatives director at Everytown for Gun Safety, part of the reason for the increase in firearm homicides is the lack of state-wide gun laws.  In 2007, Missouri removed its permit-to-purchase requirement. Since then, the state has seen a 25% increase in firearm homicides.“Missouri has among the weakest gun laws, no background checks, permitless concealed carry, domestic abusers can have and keep guns and there’s no prevention to keep children from accessing guns,” Spence said.

According to The Trace,, more than 77,000 guns were sold in Missouri in the month of June alone. Subsequently, gun violence has occurred daily in St. Louis. According to a SLMPD Homicide Analysis, more than 78% of homicide victims are African American men. This illustrates not only the significant racial disparities in crime, but also insight into the implications of institutional racism. “Black families have systematically lower household wealth than white families, including lower home values,” Dylan Small said, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “In addition, there tends to be less public and private investment in majority-Black neighborhoods. That can translate into fewer resources in the neighborhood, especially relative to need. For example, a lack of resources for programs for adolescents and young adults that might help them to stay away from gangs and street conflicts.”

St. Louis City filed a lawsuit in June that sought to block a new state legislature that bans local police officials from imposing federal gun laws. This bill, introduced by Representative Jered Taylor, a politician who has served in the Missouri House of Representatives since 2015. “I think anything on the federal level as it relates to the second amendment is an infringement,” said Representative Taylor. “If anyone were to pass gun legislation, it should be on the state level…We’re just telling the federal government we’re not going to help you enforce your federal gun laws.” Under the bill, law enforcement officials who enforce any federal gun law can be fined up to $50,000.

However, the United States Constitution’s Supremacy Clause states that federal law is superior to state law. “Valid federal law will always displace a state law, even a state constitutional provision that is inconsistent with that federal law,” Laura Wamsley reports, a journalist for NPR’s News Desk. As a result, the lack of gun legislation has contributed to gun trafficking, changes in poverty and unemployment rates and racial disparities in life expectancy for men. “Homicide accounts for 5% of the Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) in the United States and is the second leading cause of the racial disparity in life expectancy between black and white males,” Daniel Webster writes, a researcher at the John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. According to research from Everytown for Gun Safety, African Americans in Missouri are 14 times more likely to die from gun violence than their white counterparts.

Many Missourians advocate for strict gun regulation, while others argue that regulating firearm sales will do nothing to help solve mass shootings. Nevertheless, a lack of policy and strategy on a regional level continues to affect communities state-wide. Even at SLU, students have been impacted by the lack of gun safety, with two people robbed at gunpoint on campus less than two weeks ago.