A pair of ordinances scheduled to be voted on by the St. Joseph City Council could give law enforcement more options related to firearms crimes involving minors.
The new rules would focus on minors in possession of firearms without parental consent and increase prosecution opportunities.
The first prohibits the reckless transferring of a firearm to a minor without that child’s parent’s consent. The second prohibits a minor from possessing a handgun or ammunition except when allowed by state or federal law.
The exceptions to this rule allow a minor to have a handgun if they have a written consent letter from a parent on their person while carrying the gun, if they are using the handgun for employment or farming/ranching or if they are a member of the U.S. military.
Mayor Bill McMurray, who is sponsoring both items, said the laws already exist at the state and federal level, but more options for control over illegal firearm possession by children is a good thing.
“Minors in possession of firearms need to have parental consent,” McMurray said. “This mirrors the state and federal law. All this does is allow us to prosecute in municipal court rather than circuit court or federal court.”
City Attorney Bryan Carter said the laws already are being enforced by city officers, but if these ordinances were passed, the crimes could be filed to municipal, state or federal court depending on the severity of the crimes. For example, a minor found with a trunk full of firearms likely would be charged in state court rather than municipal court.
McMurray said very similar ordinances were recently approved in Kansas City and were sponsored by Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, who wanted to see more of the crimes prosecuted than what were being handled by state and federal courts.
Mcmurray said the increase in school shootings around the country means the city should take steps in order to help make sure parents know when their child does or doesn’t possess a firearm.
“With the problems we’re having in the country, I’d like to be proactive before we have such problems here and really take a good look at minors in possession of firearms,” McMurray said. “(We need to) make sure their parents are following what they’re doing and helping all of us have a safer community.”
The City Council is scheduled to vote on both items at their Oct. 7 meeting.