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Lawsuit claims that letting Kansas City enact gun control would lead to spikes in murder and rape

Chris Haxel
KCUR 89.3

A lawsuit is seeking to block initiative petitions from appearing on the ballot that would allow St Louis and Kansas City to enact their own gun regulations, inspired in part by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s contention that the proposals would cost the state hundreds of millions and lead to a massive increase in rape and murder.

Paul Berry III, a St. Louis County resident who has run for various offices as a Republican in recent years, filed a lawsuit in Cole County this week asking a court to reject a trio of proposed constitutional amendments that supporters hope to place on the 2024 ballot.

The amendments would empower Kansas City, Jackson County, St. Louis and St. Louis County to pass local regulations that are more strict than state law on the possession and transfer of guns.

Part of the challenge focuses on Missouri Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick’s fiscal notes for each version of the amendment that state the attorney general estimates the proposals could result in increased litigation costs of up to $7.5 million.

Other state and local governmental entities, the fiscal note says, estimate no costs or savings.

But Bailey argued the cost would be far higher, writing to the auditor’s office in July that the amendments could cost Missouri around $704 million.

“This includes $696.64 million in increased crime costs,” Bailey wrote, “and $7.5 million in increased legal costs for the attorney general’s office.”

To justify the expense, Bailey argued stricter gun-control laws in certain subdivisions would “meaningfully increase the economic losses from increased crime and the amount that must be spent protecting citizens from crime.”

Specifically, Bailey contends enacting stricter gun regulations would lead to an additional 32 murders and 726 rapes in St. Louis and Kansas City every year. Aggravated assault and robberies would also increase, Bailey wrote.

“These proposed initiative petitions would subvert current state law and give political subdivisions unconstitutional control over local resident’s gun rights,” Bailey wrote. “Not only is that wrong-headed, it is expensive.”

In his lawsuit, Berry argues Fitzpatrick “rubber stamped” the estimated costs that were submitted by numerous other government agencies but ignored Bailey’s conclusions.

Berry wants Cole County Judge Cotton Walker to declare the proposals unconstitutional and order the Missouri secretary of state to reject them. Short of that, he wants the judge to rewrite the ballot summary and order Fitzpatrick to issue a new fiscal note.

Neither the attorney general’s office nor the auditor could be immediately reached for comment.

A spokesman for Sensible Missouri, which is backing the gun regulation amendment, declined comment.

This marks the second potential showdown this year between Bailey and Fitzpatrick over the cost of an initiative petition.

Bailey refused to sign off on Fitzpatrick’s fiscal note earlier this year for an abortion-rights amendment that concluded the proposal would result in “no costs or savings” if it were approved by voters.

The attorney general demanded the auditor increase the estimate to say the amendment would cost the state billions of dollars. Fitzpatrick said Bailey’s estimates were not based in reality and refused to include them.

Last month, Fitzpatrick was victorious when the Missouri Supreme Court ruled Bailey had no authority to refuse to sign off on the auditor’s work.

For the gun regulations amendment, Bailey did not try to block the fiscal note. He signed off on it despite the fact that it did not reflect his arguments about the cost.

This story was originally published in the Missouri Independent.

Copyright 2023 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Jason Hancock
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