We have been disappointed, thus far, in Gov. Mike Parson’s public and private remarks when addressing the epidemic of gun violence in St. Louis. So we have drafted some remarks we believe that he should make publicly.
I have been meeting with many (but not all) elected and community leaders in the St. Louis region regarding the epidemic of gun violence in St. Louis. While senseless gun violence and tragic deaths from guns in St. Louis are not new, the inexpressibly disturbing and alarming deaths of so very many very young people in recent months has finally caught my attention and prompted me to act.
First, it is said, do no harm. And, so, I have had to ask myself, when confronting this tragic crisis, what have I done to contribute to the problem? Other than failing to show leadership until now, I can acknowledge two things that I have done that have contributed to this wanton killing, and I can commit to working to undo them.
Under my administration, more than 100,000 people have been kicked off of Medicaid, which provides health care to the most vulnerable people in our community. Gun violence is typically the last resort of desperate people. While I am aware of no report specifically saying that someone was cut from Medicaid and, as a result, went and shot someone in desperation, I must admit that my administration has greatly contributed to heightened feelings of desperation in Missouri. I vow to restore this essential safety net to everyone in Missouri who needs it.
I will go further than restore these cuts. I will attempt to expand Medicaid in Missouri by executive order – something even Missouri’s most recent Democratic governor, Jay Nixon, did not try to do. If short-sighted people in my own Republican Party (who wield so much power in this state) stymy me, then I will endorse the ballot initiative next year to expand Medicaid in Missouri. Missouri remains one of only 14 states that have ignored their most needy (while also failing to collect on federal funds dedicated to Medicaid expansion enacted by states). That stops with me.
Not only as governor but also in my previous role as state legislator, I pushed for tax cuts that primarily benefitted the most wealthy people in our state, while leaving less public money to nurture the most needy and to help support them as they strive toward more productive roles in our economy. In a climate where the rich get richer while the poor receive less support, we can expect more desperation and, with worsening desperation, more violent crime. That is what we are seeing in St. Louis, our state’s critical economic engine and largest population center. I will work with the Republican leadership in our Legislature to see that the wealthiest are more fairly taxed to alleviate the suffering and lack of opportunities of the most desperate.
I understand that you expected me to speak about gun control. While I will oppose the short-sighted people in my party who do not appreciate the critical role that social safety net programs, supported by taxes, play in alleviating poverty, desperation and crime, I believe that this state and nation were founded by the gun. I myself have wielded a gun, both for my home county as sheriff and for my country as a soldier. Furthermore, I do not believe that I would survive in office as a Missouri Republican if I championed needed gun reforms statewide.
However, I am convinced that cities have unique predicaments relative to guns and gun violence. Having met with some – but certainly not all – of the region’s locally elected officials, I have decided that the state should protect them as they work for legislative solutions to their unique predicament relative to gun violence. My administration will support, not oppose, their local efforts. Moreover, as a former law enforcement official, I was dismayed that the local leadership did not include either elected prosecutor, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner or St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, in our so-called Crime Summit. My office only will support local efforts that include the crucial contributions needed from these two credible, reform-minded elected officials.