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City leaders come up with new ideas to curb downtown gun violence

Sheriff Vernon Betts has an idea he thinks could cut down on car break-ins and gun thefts downtown.

ST. LOUIS — Faced with an increase in car break-ins and gun thefts downtown, City of St. Louis Sheriff Vernon Betts has a new idea he thinks could make an impact. He wants to lock up people's guns when come downtown.

He wants to install gun cabins in the back of his office building where they'd be guarded by deputies so people don't have to leave them in their cars.

"People can stop here. We can take their gun and store it in the cabin. They'll have to sign a form and show us a waiver," he said.

It's a practice his office already uses for off-duty officers' guns that he hopes would positively impact the city.

Betts said busy events can sometimes escalate into gun violence.

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"On a regular basis, people are coming into downtown, and they're looking for guns," he said. " … I think that may slow down some of the break-ins in the cars and people looking for weapons because they won't be there."

Gearing up for a Tuesday night ballgame, St. Louis welcomed people from across the country. Mike Kellett has been coming to watch the Cardinals and explore St. Louis since he was a kid. He's also a gun owner.

"The way to be safe is to know exactly how to use them and use them legally and keep them out of the hands of those that do illegal things," he said. 

Kellett said that even an idea like the sheriff's doesn't guarantee downtown gun safety.

"Good people giving up their guns doesn't make it safer," Kellett said. "They actually feel like they're in more danger."

Betts said he still believes in his idea.

"I don't know if anybody would be that bold and try to challenge the St. Louis sheriff's deputies and take weapons from them," he said.

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It all comes down to the same goal at the end of the day: keeping downtown St. Louis a safe place that people like Kellett choose to keep coming back to.

5 On Your Side reached out to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to ask for its thoughts. The department shared a statement that reads:

 Although we have not spoken with Sheriff Betts about his proposal, the police department welcomes constructive ideas that will further assist with keeping residents and visitors safe in the City of St. Louis.

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