While Donald Trump likes to talk a lot about homicide rates in cities like Chicago and Baltimore, he’s really just using coded language to get his racism across. When we look at the actual numbers around gun control, however, rates of homicide vary pretty significantly when it comes to race and sex. And the state that leads the nation in black homicides isn’t where Trump probably thinks it is.
It’s in the middle of America. Namely, Missouri.
As reported by the Kansas City Star, Missouri has the highest rate of black homicide victims in the entire nation. The paper came to this conclusion using a study by the Violence Policy Center. Let’s look at some hard numbers: 90 people were killed in Kansas City this year alone. Of those 90 people, more than 80% were black. When you look at all of Missouri, the homicide rate per capita for black people comes in at a horrifying nine times higher than the overall rate for the nation. Any guesses why Trump isn’t describing Missouri as “rat-infested?”
While these upsetting numbers aren’t actually a new status for Missouri—murder rates for black residents have been topping the charts in the state for a long time—it’s important to contextualize now, in light of recent conversations about gun reform. What does Missouri have? You guessed it: Weak gun laws.
Here are some examples of the state’s lax gun reform. Missouri lawmakers lowered the age you need to be to carry a concealed weapon from 21 to 19; approved a “stand your ground” law; stopped local government from banning open carry; and you no longer need to get a firearms permit to carry a concealed weapon. In fact, you don’t even need any firearms training to carry a concealed weapon.
Missouri, for example, lacks any kind of “red flag” gun laws that are important for protecting people who are victims of domestic violence, among other vulnerable populations. Basically, if you think someone is a danger to themselves or others, “red flag” laws may help get their weapons removed for a limited time. A judge can grant these orders which are basically forms of risk protection. But in Missouri, that’s a no-go.
“If you want to hunt an animal in Missouri, you must attend a hunter’s safety education course and obtain a license,” Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith wrote in a blog post. “But recent state legislation has removed any requirements on carrying or using a gun around people.”
The rural-urban divide makes this one especially tough for Missouri. While Kansas City mayors, including Quinton Lucas, the new mayor, have long advocated for the ability to make stricter gun laws for the city itself, suburban and rural legislators consistently vetoed them. For example, Mayor Lucas wants an ordinance to ban giving handguns to minors, pointing out that when people pick up guns at 18, it’s probably not the first time they’ve held them.
Oh—And remember not too long ago, when a white man who wanted to “test” his right to bear arms caused mass panic in a Walmart by walking around with armor, a rifle, and more than 100 rounds of ammunition? That was in Springfield, Missouri. He has since been arrested on terrorist threat charges.