On Sunday evening, a video emerged showing a St. Louis couple pointing a semiautomatic rifle and a pistol at a crowd of peaceful protesters, the latest of several armed responses to protests across the country.
A group of about 500 protestors had been walking along a private, gated street when a white couple emerged from their home. A video showed the man came out with a semiautomatic rifle, while a woman pointed a pistol at both firearms were pointed at the crowd. The crowd was walking to Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home asking for her resignation after she released a now-deleted Facebook reading the names, addresses, and requests of protesters who want to defund police.
The episode unfolded the day after one person was killed and at least one person was wounded Saturday afternoon at Jefferson Square Park in Louisville, Kentucky at a protest over the police killing of Breonna Taylor. In New Mexico, a man was shot and wounded earlier this month during a protest and demonstration to remove the statue of Juan de Oñate, in front of the Albuquerque Museum.
Missouri has a so-called “Stand Your Ground” law, which encourages a “shoot first, ask questions later” culture. Stand Your Ground laws are associated with clear increases in gun homicides and encourage violence, often among perpetrators with violent backgrounds. These laws also have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. When white shooters kill Black victims, the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable 11 times more frequently than when the shooter is Black and the victim is white. Georgia, where Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed, is one of the 26 states with a Stand Your Ground law, which the original prosecutor on Arbery’s case pointed to as one of the reasons he refused to pursue charges against the shooters.
Missouri’s open carry loophole also contributes to the risks of a confrontation like the one that unfolded Sunday. A visible gun has been found to make people more aggressive; therefore, open carry makes it more likely that disagreements will turn into violent conflicts. The open carry of loaded firearms during any demonstration increases the likelihood that such an event will escalate into a dangerous or deadly situation. Missouri, like most states, has no law prohibiting open carry. The failure to prohibit open carry allows for gun extremists and white supremacists to be protected while intimidating protestors.
Missouri’s Black firearm homicide rate is the highest in the nation, and Black people in Missouri are 14 times as likely to die by gun homicide as white people. A recent report from the Violence Policy Center found that, between 2014 and 2017, Missouri’s overall Black homicide rate increased by 64 percent.