ST. LOUIS (KMOX)- About three dozen gun owners turned out Saturday afternoon, with their firearms, for what they called an “educational walk” in downtown St. Louis.
They strolled from the CityGarden to the Gateway Arch.
Organizer Jeffry Smith of Cincinnati, Ohio, had a rifle slung on his shoulder and a holstered handgun on his hip, “At this moment, the state of Missouri has, among the 50 states, the strongest constitutional amendment (the recently enacted Amendment 5) regarding the right to keep and bear arms.”
Missouri changed its firearms laws to allow citizens with concealed carry permits to also openly carry rifles and handguns.
Sierra Lewis had a handgun at her side, and her young daughter brought a toy Nerf gun to Saturday’s walk. Lewis wanted to show support for the open carry provision.
“I think it’s going to help around the streets. Make sure they are safe,” she said. “I think people are going to be apt to do so much more if they know people are here protecting others.”
Wes Kelly of Dittmer said statistics show open carry laws are a good thing for society.
“Murder rates go down. Violent crime goes down,” he said.
Kelly said he’s noticed in some of the largest cities of the U.S. where gun rights are heavily-restricted, violent crime goes up.
Richard Lofftus of St. Louis County scoffed at the idea that the new law might embolden criminals.
“Typically, you will find a criminal will hide their weapon,” he said. “They won’t carry it openly.”
Police monitored the walk, but did not interfere. A handful of police shooting protesters met with the gun owners to discuss their points of view. Several people showed up with signs objecting to open carry.
There was no violence and no arrests made.
Afterward, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay held a news conference at city hall to express his displeasure with the new state law. He said people marching through downtown with loaded guns in plain view made St. Louis look like something from the Old West.
“In Deadwood (South Dakota), there was no law. In Missouri, it is the law. I don’t know which is worse, frankly,” he said.
Slay said he’ll continue to lobby for the open carry law to be repealed.
“You go into a shopping center or something and somebody’s walking around with an AK-47 over their shoulder. Think about that for a minute. That’s very disturbing. What’s so great about that? What’s right about that?” he asked.
Standing next to Slay at the news conference was Becky Morgan from the local “Moms Demand Action” group.
Morgan said her children are taught in school to duck-and-cover if they see someone besides a police officer carrying a gun.
“How are we supposed to know if those people are good guys or bad guys?” she asked. “We won’t, until they open fire. We are sending a confusing message to our children, and it’s to the detriment of their safety.”