St. Louis Gun Docket: Can the Courts Do a Better Job of Prosecuting Weapons Offenses?


State Senator Eric Schmitt - VIA
  • via
  • State Senator Eric Schmitt

At the Capitol this session, Missouri legislators have introduced all sorts of bills related to guns, some aimed at reducing violence with stricter policies around sales -- and a whole lot more aimed at stopping any gun control measures altogether.

But Republican State Senator Eric Schmitt is promoting a different kind of gun bill -- one that doesn't focus on access to weapons, but rather how the courts are prosecuting gun crimes in the St. Louis

"We need to have some bold action here," Schmitt tells Daily RFT. "When you're talking about gun violence in this city...clearly what's happening is spiraling."

What's his solution?

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Senate Bill 448 would create what's called a "special armed offender docket" in the circuit court of St. Louis that Schmitt says would allow for a more focused approach to crimes involving weapons. As part of this proposal, the court would have two judges dedicated to gun crimes.

"They would deal with crimes like armed criminal action, unlawful use of a weapon...a lot of the crimes that are reported every night on the evening news," he explains.

As written, SB 448, full version on view below, also specifies:

Within six months after each anniversary of the creation of any armed offender docket, the circuit court shall provide and publish a public report on the operations of the armed offender docket during the year preceding the anniversary, including any commentary on such operations as may be offered by such research university or a prosecuting attorney, circuit attorney, or law enforcement agency in said circuit.

That means that the courts would do a better job of tracking and studying trends of gun violence in St. Louis, he says.

Crime scene after a shooting in January at the Stevens Institute of Business and Arts in St. Louis. - JOSH ROWAN
  • Josh Rowan
  • Crime scene after a shooting in January at the Stevens Institute of Business and Arts in St. Louis.

"It's an independent evaluation of what's happening. Is this working?" he says, adding, "It allows those judges to be a little bit more plugged in."

If there were a specific gun docket, prosecutors might have a better chance of preventing repeat offenses, he argues.

"If someone is arrested...we don't want them ever doing something like that again," Schmitt says.

Continue for more of our interview with Eric Schmitt and for the full draft.

This kind of proposal could be coupled with stricter prosecutions as well -- such as higher thresholds for bail or more immediate consequences, he says.

Sam Dotson, the new police chief in St. Louis, has called for stricter gun control and harsher prosecutions and Mayor Francis Slay has been interested in this kind of reform.

Police Chief Sam Dotson - VIA FACEBOOK

Currently, there is no specific docket for gun crimes.

"Any number of judges could be assigned to one of these cases," Schmitt explains. "If there are two judges assigned...they'll have more of a history.... It allows them to put all of these issues into a greater context."

His legislation is focused on St. Louis, but Schmitt says he has talked to other prosecutors in the state who are interested.

He hopes that his proposal, which had a second read in committee this week, doesn't get caught up in the partisan fighting that has been typical of Missouri gun debates this year.

"It's not a partisan issue," he argues. "This one makes a lot of sense. It's something that people can get behind to really find some solutions within the current structures of the law."

Here's the full draft proposal.

SB 448

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

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