JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State Representative Steven Roberts says that to adequately address the crime epidemic in St. Louis the state needs to look at options in addition to simply adding more police. Roberts cited a recent article in the St. Louis American that shows St. Louis is somewhere between the sixth and eighth most policed city in the country. He said it’s clear other options needs such as gun safety and educational and workforce development opportunities need to be considered when looking at ways to reduce crime.
Roberts noted that he filed legislation that would make gun safety training more affordable by implementing a state income tax deduction to offset the cost of courses that teach proper safe firearm handling.
“The trend in Missouri has been to allow more and more access to guns, but we have not seen a corresponding increased emphasis on ensuring gun owners are taught how to handle these deadly weapons properly. If we’re going to see more guns in the hands of more people, then it is vital that we make absolutely certain they can obtain the training they need to ensure their own safety and the safety of the public,” said Roberts, D-St. Louis.
St. Louis City Sheriff Vernon Betts is a proponent of gun safety and sees the need for proper training. Betts explained why despite the changes in the law citizens should complete gun permit training. He said training and education would help citizens decide which situations require and do not require the use of a weapon. Betts also pointed out that with a permit, individuals have the freedom to travel to other states with a reciprocal agreement with Missouri.
Roberts said that, despite his best efforts, the legislature was unsuccessful this session in creating policies to reduce crime. However, he said the General Assembly did make strides to assist in creating opportunities for Missourians by passing HB 93, which will create adult high schools.
“This is a huge win for Missouri and for all Missourians who would like the opportunity to continue and complete their education,” said Roberts. “We know the adult high school concept is successful and will work wonders here in Missouri. It is based off a similar program in the state of Indiana that saw 88 percent of students who graduated employed or in college six months after graduation.”
Roberts acknowledged that workforce development is essential to crime prevention. He noted that unemployment is a motivating factor for criminal behavior and pointed to the fact that the U.S. unemployment rate for African-American male youth ages 16-19 is 31.1 percent. The rate for African Americans with less than a high school diploma is 17.2 percent. The rates are in some cases double those of the population as a whole.
The bill approved by the legislature will establish four adult high schools located in St. Louis City, Southeast Missouri, Mid-Missouri, and Southwest Missouri for individuals age 21 and up who do not have a high school diploma. It will give priority to Missourians who are currently on government assistance. The schools will help these individuals complete their high school education and obtain a diploma. They will also offer skills certifications based on regional demand through partnerships with community colleges and other programs. Additionally, they will offer a child care center to remove a significant barrier for many adults who would like to participate.
Roberts noted that the schools will also provide opportunities to establish mentorships that will help to ensure people stick with the program, and to help them develop life skills.
For more information, contact the office of Rep. Roberts at 573-751-1400.