Want to get rid of guns? Start with those who regulate them.


Stacey Newman

Exactly 23 years ago on Mother’s Day, I marched in the Million Mom March alongside numerous Jewish organizations in Washington, D.C. after my first-grade daughter went on national television talking about her fear of guns in her school. 

Stacey Newman is the executive director of ProgressWomen, a statewide social justice group focused on justice and equality issues. She served nine years as a legislator in the Missouri State House, retiring in 2019.

Nothing has changed. 

Gun violence is our accepted normal and no one is safe. Shootings happen every day, somewhere. But you know that.

The Gun Violence Archive, the national entity tracking gun violence stats, reports we have had 232 mass shootings to date in 2023. By the time you read this, the number will be more. 

Yet the self-professed pro-life party which has controlled the Missouri state legislature since 2002 and now controls every statewide office, refuses to do anything sane. Regardless of who lobbies them or testifies in Jefferson City, including police chiefs, ER surgeons, faith leaders and gun violence victims, the majority party in Missouri answers only to gun worshippers.

In 2000 the gun lobby, helmed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), had billboards in south St. Louis proclaiming they would have an office in the White House if George W. Bush was elected. After being declared the president, the NRA moved in as promised, after successfully commandeering Bush’s entire political party, all the way down to the state level.

Ten years later in 2010, once sworn into office in the Missouri House as a known anti-gun violence activist, I became the lone legislator willing to argue against insane gun bills. I was a small voice in the wind with the majority in the chamber supporting loosening gun laws, making it easier to own and carry guns. Everywhere. 

These are the cold hard facts.

Often with Democratic votes (their names are public record), the Missouri legislature legalized machine guns and short barreled rifles, permit-less carry anywhere of guns and “stand your ground” laws allowing one to shoot first, then ask questions. They took away municipalities rights to govern their own guns and after several years of attempts, passed the Second Amendment Preservation Act in 2021, nullifying federal gun laws in the state. Governor Mike Parson signed the Act into law, promptly inviting a Justice Department lawsuit, only to have a federal judge recently declare Missouri’s law unconstitutional.

The political party in charge isn’t finished. But neither are people being shot. The party in charge now wants guns in churches, guns on buses and more guns in our schools. Their answer is always the same — more guns.

We thought they would change with Sandy Hook. Or with Las Vegas, Parkland, Buffalo or Uvalde. Or any of the others that literally made us too sick to watch news coverage and fear going anywhere.

The most non-sensical? People in our Jewish community, regardless of increased antisemitic threats and shootings in synagogues, continue to support and keep these legislators in office.

Conservative voters tell us at their doors they fully support Missouri’s majority political party because they want lower taxes. Yet, they are the first to join the outcry about rampant crime (guns are everywhere!) and not feeling safe in their neighborhoods, schools, grocery stores and athletic events. 

The problem lives among us. Financial priorities of almost 30% of us are trumping our collective right to be safe and stay alive.

As a gun violence legislator, I had to stop consenting to media interviews in 2016 after the Orlando nightclub shooting, which killed 49 and injured 53 more. I had nothing left to say and was physically and emotionally sick. Voters said they were horrified but simultaneously voted in the officials who are hellbent on making it easier to get guns. I’ve carried guilt for not being able to muster more as the carnage keeps piling up. Meanwhile, my conscience won’t stop screaming.

Guns are now the leading cause of death for U.S. children and teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Let that soak in. 

Why on earth won’t we vote those responsible out of office? 

Why won’t voters stop supporting the political party which only offers token “thoughts and prayers”?

Why do we accept those who value “conservative values” more than keeping our kids alive?

The party in charge in Jefferson City has had over 20 years to do something about gun violence. They keep showing us who they are. 

Never mind that almost 80% of Missourians, including 73% identifying as Republicans, support requiring background checks on all gun sales and want something sane done now.

Congressman Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., summed it clearly on the U.S. Capitol steps after the recent Nashville school shooting, “It’s a horrible, horrible situation and we’re not going to fix it.”

Just stop putting them back in office. Their “conservative values” will be the death of us all. 

It’s not when will be the next shooting that gags us, but where?

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