Protecting Our Rights Will Reduce Violence
On Monday, Nov. 4, the Missouri Senate Interim Committee on Public Safety held its first hearing. I am thankful to be a member of this committee, and I will work to represent your views and concerns on this important subject.
I have, and always will, approach constitutional issues slowly and cautiously. Our committee hearing was a daylong affair, and we heard from two dozen witnesses. These witnesses ranged in backgrounds from doctors, lawyers and special interest groups to “boots-on-the-ground” law enforcement officers and private citizens. During Monday’s hearing, some witnesses presented ideas that I firmly believe would weaken the rights of our citizens, while others discussed ways to practically improve public safety in our state.
Some testimony focused on the ideas of universal background checks and red flag, gun-seizure laws. I have talked about these issues before, and I have filed legislation to fight back against these ideas that, if implemented, would be a clear violation of your constitutional rights. I believe foolish ideas like red flag, gun-seizure laws do not solve the problem of violence. Red flag, gun-seizure laws presume guilt before a crime is committed, and I believe they can be weaponized to infringe on individuals’ constitutional rights. This includes governmental entities targeting civilians.
Many witnesses spoke on issues surrounding public safety, violence and recidivism in Missouri. Chief Sean Fagan of the Missouri Police Chiefs Association pointed out that people usually become repeat offenders because of an “economic situation or the fact they are having trouble obtaining employment.” This is alarming. In order to effectively decrease recidivism, meaning offenders returning to prison, we have to remove barriers to the workforce and education. We will never be able to break the ugly cycle of crime if we cannot reintroduce people back into society with opportunity. There are many rehabilitation programs in Missouri designed to give individuals the skills they need to be marketable and to create separation between them and the life they had before entering the corrections system. These kinds of rehabilitation programs and plans need to be implemented and celebrated in order to achieve a reduction in recidivism rates. Chief Fagan also said he hears from chiefs across Missouri that police departments are demoralized. I find this easy to understand in a post-Ferguson era.
Another witness, Craig Heidaman, is a practicing attorney in our neck of the woods. He talked about a recent change to the Missouri Supreme Court’s operating rule on bailable offenses. What they saw was an abuse of the bond system to punish individuals. The Missouri Supreme Court changed the rule in response to this problem, basically forcing circuit judges to release people as long as certain parameters are met without ever knowing if they are a danger to others. The suspect in the deadly shooting at Tequila KC, a bar in Kansas City, Kansas, last month was released, at least in part, because of this rule. Mr. Heidaman also represents the mother of a murder victim who was killed by an illegal alien. This individual illegally obtained a firearm and ammunition, and proceeded to murder three people. According to Mr. Heidaman, there is “an immense responsibility on our judiciary and our law enforcement to decide who to keep and who to release.” In fact, this case is the reason why I filed legislation to restrict sanctuary policies for counties, municipalities and law enforcement. The Legislature needs to explore what constitutes bailable offenses.
Many witnesses called for tougher penalties on certain crimes, and much conversation was had about the issue of gangs and gang violence. I look forward to working with my colleagues on solutions to combat organized crime in Missouri.
At the end of the day, nothing does more to curb violence than the Second Amendment which is why I will fight efforts to infringe upon that right. Furthermore, I will support legislation that increases penalties against those who choose a life of crime. I will also support legislation that gives hope to the hopeless, and decreases red tape and regulations in order to incentivize prior offenders to reenter the workforce or pursue an education.
Please visit Sen. Burlison’s official Missouri Senate website at www.senate.mo.gov/burlison for more legislative and constituent resources.