© 2021 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Government, Politics & Issues

St. Louis County Council Blocks Domestic Abusers From Carrying Concealed Guns

Handgun illustration, guns
LA Johnson
/
NPR
The St. Louis County Council has voted to block individuals convicted of domestic violence or with active orders of protection from legally carrying a concealed weapon in the county.

A sharply divided St. Louis County Council on Tuesday made it illegal for people with domestic violence convictions or active orders of protection to carry a concealed weapon in the county.

The four Democrats on the council, all women, voted for the measure, while the three Republicans, all men, voted no. County Executive Sam Page is expected to sign it into law.

“This does not go as far as I would like it to,” said council Chairwoman Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood. “In the meantime, I am strongly of the belief that this bill helps us do two things that should be of utmost priority to St. Louis County government — both helping to curb gun violence and also helping to curb intimate partner violence.”

Federal law already contains these provisions, Clancy said, but the cases are rarely prosecuted.

However, 3rd District Councilman Tim Fitch, R-St. Louis County, a former police chief, said the new county law can’t keep domestic violence victims safe. All local police can do under the new law, he said, is write someone who violates it a ticket.

“We’re going to take something that you can get convicted for, and get a 10-year sentence, and make it an ordinance violation,” he said. “While it may look good on a campaign brochure or during a press conference soon to be held, it does not fix the problem.”

Fourth District Councilwoman Rochelle Walton Gray, D-Black Jack, said reinforcing federal laws at the local level is important, even if the punishments are less.

“It sends a message to our prosecutors that we at the St. Louis County Council expect them to prosecute these people who commit domestic violence.” she said. "This ordinance is a furthering of the federal law.”

Kansas City passed a similar ordinance in 2019. Legislation to do so in St. Louis has stalled at the Board of Aldermen.

Inmate phone contract

The council on Tuesday also gave initial approval to a contract with Texas-based Securus Technologies for phone, video calling and law library services at the county jail. A final vote could come next week.

“County government will no longer seek to make a profit off of inmate phone calls, but will instead prioritize the ability of inmates to get out of an incarcerated setting and get back on their feet,” Page said. “The county will get no cuts from the profit of the new phone contract. That means about $900,000 less coming into our general fund. But it’s the right thing to do.”

Council members had delayed taking action after the current contract holder, Inmate Calling Solutions, raised issues with the bidding process. Its president, Tim McAteer, repeated those concerns on Tuesday.

IC Solutions, McAteer said, had prepared two contracts — an option that included a $3 fee charged to an inmate’s family for using a credit card to put money on the phone account, and one that did not include the fee.

County purchasing officials, he said, then asked his company to submit what’s called a best and final offer, a request generally made when there are changes to what is being sought. IC Solutions did so, he said, even though the requests for proposals had not changed. But the purchasing department, he said, told him not to submit such an offer on the no-fee proposal, which he calls Option A.

“If our Option A was not evaluated and scored, we can only conclude that the best and final process was used to remove Option A and not have to score it, because it’s so much lower than the selected provider that it’s virtually impossible to have selected that offer,” McAteer told the council. “I sincerely hope this is not the case, because if it is, it presents significant issues, not the least of which is it’s not in the best interest of the county, or the inmates and their families, and such actions would never hold up in court.”

State records show that Winston Calvert, Page’s chief of staff, was a lobbyist for Securus from December 2018 to February 2019. Page has denied any connection between Calvert’s previous role and the awarding of the contract and promises to release further documents about the process.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.