Missouri has long faced one of the worst gun violence epidemics in the country. It has the 5th-highest rate of gun violence in the nation, with 1,222 people killed and 2,584 others wounded by guns in an average year in Missouri. May continued the trend of heartbreaking gun violence.
This month, Missouri has seen more devastating gun violence throughout the state, including shootings of children and community gun violence. Two teenage brothers in Kansas City were shot and killed after leaving Ramadan services at their mosque. A four-year-old in Union found a firearm that was put under a couch and died after unintentionally shooting himself. Two men were fatally shot and three men were wounded in an incident in Kinloch. Three people were killed and 13 people were injured over the course of one tragic weekend in St. Louis in early May.
There were also instances of police shootings. On May 16, Lantz Stephenson Jr. a 17-year-old, was shot and killed by police in Grandview, Missouri. After dispatchers received a call reporting an armed person in crisis — the call later identified as coming from Stephenson himself — two law enforcement officers shot and killed the teenager. Recent reports show that Stephenson was not armed with a firearm and only carried a BB gun.
“This heartbreaking month of gun violence and latest police shooting show the depths of the gun violence crisis. We need holistic solutions and changes to how we respond to crises in our communities and to act on common-sense steps to prevent gun violence,” said Sonja Hitchcock, a volunteer with the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Our hearts are with Lantz’ family and all those impacted by gun violence in our state.”
With regards to the police shooting, Missouri could explore ways to encourage cities like Granview to explore alternative dispatch programs, which deploy public health professionals and crisis workers to situations involving mental health, substance use, and homelessness, and show great promise in reducing police-civilian interactions while equipping those in need with critical support and resources. Improving emergency and crisis response so that professionals who are better equipped to respond to these challenges are dispatched is one of a number of measures Everytown has identified that have the potential to help prevent police shootings, which have a disproportionate impact on Black communities.
Police violence is a form of gun violence, and it is essential that law enforcement agencies adopt evidence-based policies, including having strong guardrails on when police may use force against civilians, ensuring police are held accountable when force is used, and prioritizing de-escalation, dignity, and respect.
Missouri’s weak gun laws help create easy access to guns, further enabling this public health crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated the root causes of gun violence, in Missouri and across the country. Lack of access to resources is a key driver of gun violence and decades of policy decisions and underinvestment in Black and Latino communities have created areas of concentrated disadvantage, where public health crises — including both COVID and gun violence — thrive.
More information on gun violence in Missouri is available here.