Exactly 14 years ago my first grade daughter went on national TV and talked about going to school and not wanting kids to get shot. This was after the Columbine High School shooting and the Los Angeles Jewish Day Care shooting. Her national TV appearance was a sobering wake up call for me, a parent living in suburban Ladue in St. Louis. My daughter was just 7-years-old.
Last December I was at the National Cathedral in D.C. with faith leaders of every denomination, filled with surviving families of gun violence from all over the country. Most of them were parents. Their grief was almost unbearable. Because of one year ago...
Because 20 first graders -- an entire class of little kids -- were gun downed, mutilated beyond our comprehension, 7-year-olds just like my daughter was once. Just like she had been afraid of.
Recently on the House floor we all stood for a moment of prayer for young Hailey Owens who was kidnapped, shot and killed in Springfield. Two hundred forty seven other kids -- someone's kids -- in St. Louis City were gun violence victims last year. And more in Kansas City. And more in St. Louis County. Like 11-year-old Antonio Johnson. Who was shot. Killed last week in St. Louis as he was sitting at his kitchen table doing his homework.
Real little kids. Not grown kids. Little kids. We should have stood and remembered each one of them.
But our response?
Another bill, this bill again -- to ignore all federal gun laws, criminalize law enforcement, ignore city ordinances and allow open carry of any gun any where any time.
Our response to saving Missouri's kids lives? Putting guns first.
On the prescription drug bill, the sponsor said on the floor, "HOW MANY KIDS HAVE TO DIE BEFORE WE TAKE ACTION?"
On the 72 hour abortion delay bill and the Parental notification abortion bill and the Conscience bill (HB1430), you said over and over, " WE MUST PROTECT LIFE".
On the tort reform bill, you said, "WHAT ABOUT THE VICTIMS?"
Yet -- the second year in a row we debate a bill that will do nothing to stop these gun deaths or protect the lives of our kids. We know that HB 1439 is unconstitutional.
It contradicts our oath of office. Will go straight to court if becomes law.
There is no Little Kid Lobby in the Capitol.
No Little Kid Lobby who will donate to your campaigns. No Little Kid Lobby who will convince you that you must vote for them for you to stay in elected office.
No voice for the Little Kids who will be shot this year and the next and the next.
Our three largest counties in the state in St. Louis and Kansas City have more kid gun deaths that you can comprehend, unbelievably more than the rest of the state and Deserve our attention. Deserve our protection. Deserve common sense bills that will keep them alive. Deserve bills that keep criminals and those with mental illness from easy access to unlimited guns.
But we turn our back on kids who are shot. We forget them. We ignore their deaths because another lobby is louder. Another lobby has more dollars.
HB1439 protects only one constituency -- the businesses who profit from more gun and ammunition sales. They turn their backs on kids they don't know and can't see because money talks.
You bring up the Second Amendment every time. You say gun rights are Inalienable. Guaranteed. Written in stone. But the courts rule over and over that those rights should be narrowly defined. With historical limitations. Subject to reasonable regulations.
I am certain our forefathers and foremothers did NOT envision a country of kids, sitting in classrooms, in homes, in their neighborhoods shot and murdered and killed and forgotten -- because a gun right is of higher value than their life.
You talk about "Freedom." "Protecting your rights." "Defense." "Protecting Life."
But do you mean for our kids? Even the kids in our three largest counties? Kids represented by many sitting here? The kids whom you don't know their names?
How about our former colleague from this very House, Hon. Pastor James Morris, whose own teenage son was shot and paralyzed because he was simply in the wrong place? What about his grief?
And Antonio Johnson's parents grief? And Hailey Owen's parent's grief? And the hundreds of parents grief in St. Louis City and Kansas City and St. Louis County?
Their grief should be our grief.
What must happen in our state before our kids, our little kids, tug at our hearts and minds and wallets? As you said, HOW MANY HAVE TO DIE?
Kids afraid to go to school. Afraid to walk home from school. Afraid to be in their house. Afraid that we have totally forgotten they matter because they can't afford to lobby us.
Remember Hailey Owens and Antonio Johnson when you send this bill to the Governor. You know their names.
We owe them and all the other kids we didn't stand in silence for -- we owe them something.
Not something designed just to keep you in office. Not sending an unconstitutional bill to the courts.
Something that will save our kids lives.