State Rep. Steve Roberts

The community is once again in shock and mourning for the senseless murder of another innocent child, a young girl, which brought the number of victims to 12 this year alone. She had recently attended our back-to-school fair. We hardly have the time to mourn one young life lost when another life is taken. In fact, between writing this on Saturday and sending out a call for Governor Parson to add legislation to help deal with the crisis, yet another child fell victim to this epidemic of gun violence.

There has to be an immediate response on several fronts. First, because there will soon be more high school football games that can become potential flash points, I'm calling on Governor Parson to have the Missouri Highway Patrol coordinate with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and Saint Louis Public Schools to have more security at these games. The school districts also need to organize more adult volunteers to attend the games to quickly alert authorities to problems.

I have also written the governor ask that he add this crisis to the Special Session of the Missouri General Assembly which he has already called. Writing as chair of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus, on behalf of our caucus, I specifically called for debate on legislation to allow local governments to pass their own common-sense gun regulations.

We know where most of the violence and shootings are occurring, and they are mostly within a few square miles. There should be a comprehensive way to flood the zone, first with twice the number of police in areas experiencing high levels of violence, and second with assistance from the State Highway Patrol as well. Third, there should be door to door canvassing by clergy and social agencies to address community concerns and to encourage cooperation on ridding the neighborhood of gang and drug violence and illegal weapons.

Next, we need everyone to realize that young people driving around St. Louis with guns in their cars are ticking time bombs. In the heat of the moment, a careless insult turns into an argument. An argument turns into a fight. One of the parties goes to their car and starts spraying bullets in the general direction of another, and innocent children and bystanders are injured and killed. We need to require a course in every school on deescalating violence and for adult volunteers to become certified in these methods as well.

We also need to get these guns, mostly stolen, off our streets. That takes citizens turning in the names of those selling illegal weapons. We need all responsible parents and adults to say enough is enough. It is time to speak up if you know who took a life because that person will likely take another or a dozen more innocent lives.

We all want more job opportunities for young people, more social programs to assist our communities. These things I will fight for. But we also need to break the cycle of violence now by taking those immediate steps that can be taken.

State Representative Steve Roberts (D-St. Louis) is chairman of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus.

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