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Government, Politics & Issues

Nasheed To Seek 10-Year Minimum Sentence For Gun Crimes

St. Louis Metropolitan Police chief Sam Dotson listens as state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed announces her plans to introduce legislation mandating 10 years in prison for gun crimes in Missouri.
Rachel Lippmann I St. Louis Public Radio.

A state senator from the city of St. Louis wants individuals who commit gun crimes in Missouri to face what she sees as an appropriate punishment.

"Those with violent crimes and those with gun crimes - they will serve 10 years in prison if we can pass this legislation," state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed said Tuesday at a press conference with Mayor Francis Slay and police chief Sam Dotson. "What we're saying is enough is enough."

The penalties would apply to all gun crimes, including something as simple as concealing a weapon without the proper permit to do so. Nasheed said she's prepared to take flak from those who consider that too harsh of a punishment.

"If you're willing to pick up a gun, you should be prepared to suffer the consequences," she said. "My tolerance for this is at an all-time low."

Randy Scherr, the executive director of the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said his organization is generally concerned by mandatory minimums for any crimes.

"A statutory minimum means the court is not allowed to consider all the circumstances around a crime," Scherr said. "It becomes more a one-size-fits-all."

Circuit attorney Jennifer Joyce issued the following statement:

"Gun violence is an extremely serious issue facing our community; these crimes plague our city at a time when the trends on most other crimes are decreasing, both locally and nationally. We need to consider every possible idea as part of the solution.; Any consideration of mandatory minimum sentences should be part of larger conversations on the complex factors driving gun violence. To create meaningful and lasting changes to the current “gun culture” will require a holistic and collaborative approach among law enforcement, community leaders and citizens. I applaud Senator Nasheed for her efforts to foster the conversation and put forth potential solutions."

Persistent problem

Nasheed, Slay and Dotson were standing at the corner of N. 20th and Ferry streets, across from the M.V. Market. That's where 14-year-old Latasha Williams was shot and wounded on Sept. 13. Williams was likely not the intended target, but the shooting cost her her eye.

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Credit Rachel Lippmann l St. Louis Public Radio
Donnitta Turner's daughter, Latasha Williams, lost her eye in a shooting outside the M.V. Market at Ferry and 20th streets.

"It needs to stop, and I'm pretty sure the street knows who did it," said Williams' mother, Donnitta Turner. "They're not going to come forward. Don't be afraid. I'm asking everybody to put yourself in my shoes. Just for one second, put yourself in my shoes and understand how I feel."

Slay and Dotson both pledged to support 10-year minimum penalties.

"What happened to Latasha makes me angry. It should make everyone angry," Slay said. "We know that the combination of concentrated poverty, lax state gun laws, and cuts in mental health service is deadly and dangerous, but not enough is being done about it."

There have been 97 murders in the city of St. Louis this year, and more than 1,100 shootings.

But aside from expressing their frustration at the rampant gun violence, and pledging to support Nasheed's call for mandatory minimums, neither Slay nor Dotson brought forth any ideas. And that frustrated Rodney Carter Sr., who said he's lived just a few doors down from the M.V. Market for 28 years.

"Where were they when I got shot?" he asked. "When my friends got shot? They come up here when voting time gets close, but we don't see them any other time."

Young children in the neighborhood need things to do, Carter said. A snack shop inside a new recreation center would mean they could avoid the M.V. Market all together.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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