Gun Violence | St. Louis Public Radio

Gun Violence

Several Missouri school districts arm their employees to prevent mass shootings. More schools in the state are considering it following a school shooting last month.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Glenwood Elementary School sits along a state highway between West Plains and the Arkansas border, in far south-central Missouri. If the school has an emergency, the Howell County Sheriff’s Department is more than 10 minutes away.

Superintendent Wayne Stewart said it’s a situation that makes the district of 240 students especially vulnerable if a shooter ever attacked.

“Very likely, the deed would be done by the time emergency responders got here,” he said.

Clayton High School students leave class during a walkout and press conference to call for improved school security on Feb. 23, 2018, a week after 17 people were killed in a shooting at a Florida high school.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Students across the St. Louis region are planning school walkouts this week as part of a national call for improved school safety and tighter gun-control measures.

Students at more than a dozen schools in the area are planning events Wednesday morning in response to the mass school shooting that took place in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14. That’s left school officials to figure out the best way to respond: should they support student involvement and civic engagement, or should they enforce school rules?

"The Second Amendment."

If you've lived in America, you've heard those words spoken with feeling.

The feeling may have been forceful, even vehement.

"Why? The Second Amendment, that's why."

The same words can be heard uttered in bitterness, as if in blame.

"Why? The Second Amendment, that's why."

Or then again, with reverence, an invocation of the sacred — rather like "the Second Coming."

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill answers questions during a town hall at Harris-Stowe State University. Jan. 27, 2018
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill took aim at a variety of targets Thursday, as she reinforced her views on guns and drug companies – and offered up advice to some of the players involved in Gov. Eric Greitens’ legal fight.

McCaskill, a Democrat who is seeking re-election this fall, announced that she is sponsoring a bill to end tax write-offs for prescription drug advertising. McCaskill noted that only the United States and New Zealand offer such tax incentives.

Jamaiyah Redmond and Chloé Guerin, both Clayton High School juniors, while listening to classmates call for school safety improvements Friday, Feb. 23, 2018.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

High school students in St. Louis are lending their voice to the national debate about making schools safer.

On Friday morning, a few dozen student from Clayton High School trudged across a soggy field in front of their school and called for an assault-weapons ban in Missouri and money for security upgrades to schools.

A police officer speaks to a woman after an October 2016, shooting.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

After 205 people died from gun violence in St. Louis last year, the city's research universities and hospitals decided to take steps to reduce such deaths. Police data show there have been 10 homicides in St. Louis this year so far. 

The St. Louis Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program, to begin this summer, will employ medical treatment and therapy to reduce deaths and new injuries among gunshot, stabbing and assault victims.

Washington University, Saint Louis University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis will collaborate on the effort. The medical centers involved include, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital and SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.

The St. Louis homicide toll is now over 200 – reaching a 21 year high after three women were fatally shot in late December.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh went Behind the Headlines to discuss an effort to reduce the pool of weapons in the area. He talked about a gun buyback program in St. Louis City with St. Louis Public Radio reporter Rachel Lippmann.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Dec. 20 at 2:00 p.m. with details of the buyback — St. Louis-area residents who have weapons they want to get rid of can exchange them for cash on Saturday, Dec. 23.

Private groups are financing and coordinating the program. People can turn in guns at the Omega Center, 3900 Goodfellow Blvd., between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Only working firearms can be exchanged for cash.

A spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson said the program is targeted at guns from St. Louis, St. Louis County and East St. Louis, but those running the buyback won't have any way of knowing where a gun comes from. The weapons will be turned over to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, which will check to see if the guns have been stolen or used in a crime.

Deniya Irving, 7, smiles at her grandmother, Lawanda Griffin, after the Board of Aldermen adopted a resolution honoring the girl on October 20, 2017. Deniya was shot in the head in June in an incident that left her parents and another man dead.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Nearly 160 people have been killed in St. Louis this year, putting the city on pace for almost 200 homicides for the third year in a row.

Deniya Irving, 7, was almost among them. She was shot in the head in June, an incident that left her parents and another man dead. She was not expected to survive, but can now walk with a cane and speak a few words at a time.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Friday adopted a resolution in her honor, promising to work “within our communities to reduce the senseless, violent crimes” like the ones that left Deniya and her sisters without their parents.

Missouri Highway Patrol Superintendent Sandra Karsten speaks with interim St. Louis Police Chief Larry O'Toole in July. The Highway Patrol began monitoring St. Louis highways this summer.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Halfway through a 90-day initiative, the Missouri Highway Patrol has confiscated at least 20 illegal guns and made hundreds of arrests for outstanding warrants on Interstates 55 and 70 in St. Louis.

It’s the first time in modern history the patrol has deployed up to 30 troopers on interstate highways within the city of St. Louis for an extended period of time, Capt. John Hotz said. But watching the highways may be one of the few things state and federal government can do to help St. Louis bring down its crime rate, putting the onus primarily on St. Louis’ officers and citizens.

Tracy White sits in front of her mother's house, where she's living after serving more than 18 years in prison.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Gun violence is the result of a series of choices, some of them spur-of-the-moment, others made after much consideration.

The vast majority of men and women in Missouri convicted of gun crimes eventually go free. Next comes navigating life with a felony record, which is a complicated process.

They often have to go back to the neighborhoods where they were arrested, making it hard to escape feuds that had them protectively carrying guns. And the lucrative world of drug dealing can be a temptation when it’s tough to find or keep a job.

Aaron Murray, 30, works out at Paraquad in St. Louis. Murray was paralyzed from the waist down during a home invasion in 2012.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In 2011, Aaron Murray bought his first gun at a sporting goods store — a .40 caliber Beretta pistol. He and his wife were fixing up a foreclosed home in a tough neighborhood in the northern suburbs of St. Louis, and he wanted to protect himself.

Two years later, a bullet from his own gun during a home invasion would leave him paralyzed from the waist down.

A memorial rests for Rashad Farmer, who was shot and killed in 2015 on the 5800 block of Lotus Avenue in St. Louis.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a grim trend tucked into St. Louis’ 2017 homicide statistics: More than half of the victims are black males under the age of 29 and close to half of those suspected of doing the shootings are in the same age range.

It illustrates a stark reality in the city’s crime-ridden neighborhoods. Officials with the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment say employment and education are an answer to reducing the number of young people killed. But those who have made connections with the city’s youth say there’s more to be done.

Saint John's United Church vigil gun violence Kenneth McKoy
FIle photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump and members of his Cabinet repeatedly have promised to help get violent crime in cities like St. Louis, which is on pace to have 180-plus homicides for the third year in a row, under control.

The administration has promised an additional $200 million to combat the problem, with most of the money targeted to boosting enforcement. Though St. Louis is guaranteed none of that money, the budget is praised by local law enforcement and criticized by those who daily try to fight crime on the ground.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, along with James Clark of Better Family Life (left), announces on Thursday, June 29, 2017, that the department has turned on a gunshot detection tool called ShotSpotter.
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

A network of sensors now dot a 4-square-mile area of north St. Louis County, touted by police as the latest way to crackdown on gun violence.

Patrons sit on Iowa Street outside Yaquis on Cherokee.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On April 30, Francis Rodriguez, the owner of Yaquis on Cherokee, was drawn to his apartment window by a commotion outside on Cherokee Street. Rodriguez lives above the pizza parlor and, as shots rang out, he and his wife dropped to the floor. After a pause, he ran downstairs to check on the restaurant, where people didn’t immediately recognize the sound of gunfire.

“They're still playing music in here. They didn't hear the shots upstairs that are right outside the door,” he said. “But just as I open up the back door from our apartment and hear people start raising the alarm in here [Yaquis] and so people started screaming and falling onto the floor.”

Tom Walker | Flickr |

Last year set a record for the number of drug overdose deaths in the St. Louis region, most of them opioid-related. Gun violence has also long been a problem in St. Louis. Although there’s no evidence to prove the rise in the prevalence of both issues is related, the solution to them is interconnected, advocates say.

Today is the first day of summer and that means it’s the start of the busy season for Lise Bernstein. As the president of Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, Bernstein is working her organization’s campaign to distribute free gun locks all summer.

Since the Lock It For Love program began in the spring of 2015, more than 1,800 gun locks have been handed out across St. Louis and St. Louis County. Organizers try to pass out gun locks in St. Louis zip codes where the risk for youth violence is high. That’s according the St. Louis Regional Youth Violence Prevention Task Force Community Plan,  which was released in 2013.

James T. Hodgkinson appears in a St. Clair County Sheriff's Department booking photo on Dec. 31, 1992.
St. Clair County Sheriff's Department

James Hodgkinson, the Belleville, Illinois, man who shot and wounded a Republican congressman and four others June 14 at a Congressional baseball practice acted alone, investigators said Wednesday.

"The FBI is investigating this shooting as an assault on a member of Congress, and an assault on a federal officer," said Andrew Vale, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office. "We also assessed that there is no nexus to terrorism." In this context, terrorism means international groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda.