From a podium at Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis, Democratic Mo. State Rep. Stacey Newman asked a crowd of gun-control supporters to hold up their phones and punch in a new contact, the switchboard for the U.S. Senate.
She told them to call every day, ask for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and demand that they vote in favor of universal background checks for gun sales.
It was just one in a number of pleas made during a rally on Saturday that was organized by the local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Speakers also called for banning so-called assault style weapons and what are commonly referred to as high-capacity clips.
“It is far too easy for criminals to get their hands on weapons,” said St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. “It is frustrating. There are people who have no regard for the sanctity of human life, they shoot at each other, and sometimes miss and hit innocent victims.”
During his speech, Slay referred to a 4-year old girl who was shot in the shoulder Thursday night. It appeared the girl was an innocent bystander in a drive by shooting; she has since been released from the hospital.
Pastor James T. Morris of Lane Tabernacle CME Church said assault style weapons represent a threat to national security.
“These weapons are making their way into the hands of persons who have as their ultimate goal the killing of men, women, and children,” Morris said. “They are not for hunting rabbits, ducks and deer. No, they are for hunting people.”
St. Louis City Chief of Police, Sam Dotson, also said that there needs to be stricter punishment for people convicted of gun crimes.
Not everyone in attendance, though, agreed with the speakers at the rally.
At the back of a large crowd stood a handful of pro-gun advocates, one held a sign with “Guns save lives” in thick, red letters.
Abdel Saghiri, of south St. Louis City, said anyone who wants to buy a firearm should be subjected to a background check, but disagreed with banning certain types of guns.
“It’s already illegal to own something that’s full automatic, so, simi-automatics should be the same as a pistol,” Saghiri said.
He said banning some types of guns would just increase demand, and ultimately create a black market for those weapons. Saghiri also dismissed the idea that banning clips that can hold a large number of rounds would put a dent in gun crime.