Missouri’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives has voted against banning children from carrying guns in public without adult supervision.
The proposal went down to defeat in a 104-39 loss Wednesday. Only a single Republican voted in favor, even though the the push was initially touted as a bipartisan effort.
There is currently no age minimum to openly carry a gun in Missouri.
Calls for change were triggered after a number of local holdups by armed teens. Videos have captured groups of children openly carrying rifles, including military-style weapons, as they walk the streets.
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, recalling what officers had told her.
“Now they [the children] have been emboldened, and they are walking around with them,” she added, per The Associated Press. “Until they actually brandish them, and brandish them with intent, our police officers ... are handcuffed.”
Republican opponents blasted the proposal 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.
Since 2017, 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. Republicans welcomed the looser rules — but law enforcement did not.
The failure of the slightly safer gun proposal this week came a month after Republicans in the state House sought to require female lawmakers to cover their arms with a jacket in the chamber, sparking heated controversy.
The House eventually updated the proposal to allow cardigans as well. There are no similar requirements for men.