OPINION: Majority of Missourians support background checks


Why isn’t Jefferson City listening?

State Representative

A recent poll, conducted by the Missouri Scout for its subscribers, asked Missourians a number of questions about gun control. The results were unexpected, given the perception around gun issues in our state.

Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed support required background checks for all gun sales. Republicans and Democrats, men and women – from St. Louis to Cape Girardeau – Missourians of every stripe, demographic and political affiliation support common-sense gun laws.

It is a surprising result, at least if you have been listening to the propaganda. We have been told so often that we can’t have common-sense gun laws in Missouri, that there is no support, that it’s a “liberal thing.” That the state’s “gun culture” and support for Second Amendment rights mean that all attempts at common-sense gun laws are doomed to fail.

Well, that is a fallacy. And the results of the poll are not so surprising to those of us who have been listening to the people instead of the politicians.

It turns out that, when it comes to the gun debate, two things can actually be true at the same time:

  • Missourians can support the Second Amendment and stricter gun laws. The Missouri Scout’s poll shows that, while 77 percent of those surveyed support background checks, 75 percent also support the Second Amendment.
  • Widespread consensus on gun issues among Democrats, Republicans and independents, as well as between urban and rural Missourians. It turns out we are not as divided as some would have us believe.

The survey found 69 percent support for a so-called “red flag law,” where a judge would have the authority to order weapons taken away from someone found dangerous by the court. Even more surprising to those blocking attempts at gun reform, 60 percent of Missourians statewide support a ban on assault-style weapons.

Again, these majorities held across political affiliation, ideological identification and demographics.

This support for common-sense gun laws promises only to grow, as our state and country continue to fall victim far too often to the all-too-easy access to guns by those who should not have them.

Now that we have seen the true will of the people of Missouri, only one question remains. When will the Republican leadership and the Governor’s office listen to the people who elected them, instead of the moneyed interests who would see us divided at such great cost?

They have seen these poll results. They have seen the bipartisan support for common-sense gun laws. But they continue to do nothing about it.

What we need now is for Jefferson City to listen to what the people of Missouri are telling them. Now is the time to show the nation that Missouri can be a leader in passing meaningful gun reform laws. We can show that you can support the Second Amendment and background checks, and red flag laws. Because that is exactly what the people of Missouri stand for.

This consensus shows another thing, too. We can work together.

If, for whatever reason, a more rural district feels differently about this issue, we know that we have enough common ground to compromise.

We can allow cities the right to pass the laws that are appropriate for their particular issues, while preserving the freedoms that are important to all of us. We are not that different.

In the end, we all want the same thing — a state, and a world, that is safe for us and our families. It does not have to be this hard.

(Representative Steve Roberts is in his second term and serves the people of the 77th District of St. Louis. He is Chairman of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus and a candidate for Missouri State Senate in the 5th District.)



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