Confusion arises over MO gun laws following Gov. Parson’s visit to St. Louis

Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 6:36 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - The school shooting at Central VPA High School on Monday has left questions and confusion about what police in Missouri can do when it comes to mental illness and firearms.

Gov. Mike Parson’s comments Thursday night created even more questions after he claimed local police departments have the authority to temporarily seize a firearm from someone who is deemed mentally ill. Hours earlier, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department communicated to the press that it did not have clear authority to take the school shooter’s gun when officers responded to his home days before the shooting because Missouri does not have red flag laws. A red flag law allows police to petition a court to temporarily confiscate weapons from someone who is a possible danger to themselves or others.

Nine days before the deadly shooting at Central VPA, Orlando Harris’s family called police concerned about a gun found in his home. Although police in St. Louis were asked to take the gun away from him, they say there was nothing they could have done because of the laws in place. The firearm was temporarily given to a third party who has not been identified, but the gunman was somehow able to get the weapon back before Monday’s shooting. Harris killed a student and teacher in the attack.

Under the Second Amendment Preservation Act, if officers had seized the gun they could have been fined $50,000. The Second Amendment Preservation Act became law in 2021.

Law professor Anders Walker says under that law, firearms can only be taken if that person is a convicted felon.

“The state of Missouri has handcuffed them and made it impossible for them to stop people who we know are high-risk shooters from going ahead with these kinds of horrific events,” Walker says.

When News 4 asked Parson about that on Thursday, his response created some confusion.

“People [who] have mental health issues, you can take their weapons on that and that’s part of the bill that was passed,” he said. “I think you can go in there and read that.”

Looking through the Second Amendment Preservation Act, that language couldn’t be found.

Walker confirmed to News 4 that the bill does not include mental health.

News 4 has repeatedly reached out on Friday to Parson’s office to get clarification.

At one point on Friday, the office sent this statement:

“The General Assembly has granted courts some authority to limit or deny access to firearms for offenders convicted of a felony offense, criminal defendants on supervised probation, and when an individual suffers from a mental health condition that results in civil commitment.”

News 4 followed up with the governor’s office about what law that comes from but they have not responded with any sourcing.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones says actions of the Missouri legislature continue to make gun violence more likely.

“Whether it’s dismantling the permitting process, passing a nullification law making it harder for local law enforcement to do its job or by failing to take action to empower loved ones to temporarily remove firearms from a person in crisis at risk of harming themselves or others,” Mayor Jones says. “Now their inaction in the face of senseless violence is leaving communities across our region feeling powerless.”

State Rep. Tony Lovasco represents parts of St. Charles and Lincoln Counties. He is against red flag laws and says someone’s property should not be taken away without them having been convicted of a crime.

“Anytime you’re looking at any kind of event like the tragedy that happened earlier this week, you have to look at what concrete steps you can do to prevent it,” Rep. Lovasco says. “But you can’t go overboard. You can’t say that you can do absolutely everything to prevent every crime. We wouldn’t live in a free society if we acted like that.”

Harris did not have a criminal record prior to shooting and killing two people at CVPA High School. He did, however, suffer from mental illness. His family told police they had sought mental health treatment for him on several occasions, put him on medication, and even monitored his mail and whereabouts as he struggled with mental illness.

Police records show officers were called to the shooter’s house at least six times. Two times were this past July, one for an accident and the other suicide attempt. The most recent call was on October 15.