ST. LOUIS (AP) — Guns have claimed the lives of two more children in the St. Louis area amid growing frustration about violence in the state’s largest cities.
St. Louis County police say 3-year-old Rodney March III was killed Thursday in what appears to be an accidental shooting, while 13-year-old Clifford Swan III was fatally shot while walking through an apartment complex. They are among 22 children killed in shootings in the St. Louis metropolitan area so far in 2019, compared to 13 at the same time last year.
The 3-year-old’s death led prosecutors to file a child endangerment charge Friday against 28-year-old year-old Rodney March II, who is accused of leaving a loaded .40 caliber Glock within reach of the boy. Charging documents say the child was able to get the gun and shoot himself in the head.
Also Friday, 18-year-old Jabari Lowery was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in Clifford’s death. A second suspect, 17-year-old Montez Eskew, was charged with assault and resisting or interfering with a felony arrest.
Bond is set at $100,000 for March, $500,000 for Lowery and $50,000 for Eskew.
The shootings follow a particularly bloody week in Kansas City, which recorded five homicides in a 24-hour span. The city’s homicide total for the year stands at 107 as of Friday.
Amid the bloodshed, Democrats have been pressuring Republican Gov. Mike Parson and GOP leaders in the House and Senate to discuss the issue during a special legislative season this week on used vehicle taxes. While that didn’t happen, Democrats did convince them to start talking about what might be done to address the violence.
Senate President Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Friday that he has convened an eight-member working group to investigate whether to form a special committee on gun violence. Earlier, House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, said he has a group of GOP lawmakers working to craft legislation addressing gun violence that could be unveiled when the Legislature returns in January.
It’s unclear what kinds of solutions Republicans might agree to consider in an election year. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said last week she wants Missouri lawmakers to allow the city of St. Louis to require permits for concealed weapons. Another proposal would reverse a 2016 law allowing non-felons to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
Parson, who is up for election in 2020, also has met with St. Louis area leaders multiple times in recent weeks with an eye on announcing a crime-fighting plan soon, although he has cautioned that he wants to protect the Second Amendment rights of Missourians.