ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri is in a "crisis" with violent crime in its largest cities, Gov. Mike Parson said Tuesday.
Parson met with St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and about a dozen other area leaders to address violence in the city. The officials didn't release a new crime-fighting plan, but Parson said one will be announced soon, possibly later this month.
It was the second time Parson came to St. Louis in the past week to discuss the crime problem. Last week, he met with about two dozen faith leaders along with Krewson. He also met last week in Jefferson City with the Legislative Black Caucus to discuss crime.
St. Louis has already seen 138 homicides in 2019 and is on pace to top last year's total of 186. Eleven of this year's victims were children, and two other child deaths are being investigated as "suspicious." All 13 children were black.
Homicides are also on the rise in Kansas City, which has recorded 103 homicides so far this year. That's on pace to top the 138 killings totaled in 2018. Both cities have among the nation's highest homicide rates.
Parson, a Republican, called the cities' violent crime rate a "crisis" after meeting with the leaders. But he remained noncommittal on whether he would support changes in Missouri's gun laws, instead saying the matter needs to be addressed by the full Legislature next year.
"That legislative body represents close to 6 million people in this state," Parson said. "They all should have a say if we're going to change the gun laws in this state."
He also pledged "to protect the rights of the Second Amendment for law-abiding citizens of this state."
The GOP-led Legislature declined to take up the issue of gun violence at a special session that began Monday. Instead, lawmakers returned to the Capitol to consider bringing back a tax break for multiple vehicle trade-ins.
One gun law change favored by Krewson and others in St. Louis would allow the city to require a permit to carry a gun. Missouri changed its law, effective in 2017, so that a permit is no longer required.
Krewson, a Democrat, said Tuesday's meeting focused on three areas that could help reduce violence: manpower, equipment and technology.
Parson has said he supports directing the Missouri State Highway Patrol to take over some St. Louis-area highways to free up city officers for other crime-fighting efforts. Technological improvements could include purchasing a system that helps detect gunshots and adding more security cameras in high-crime areas.
Page, also a Democrat, said the county is willing to do whatever it can to help reduce crime in the city.
"We know that crime is a regional problem," Page said. "It's going to take a regional effort."