ST. LOUIS — Despite warning signs and requests from parents, Missouri law enforcement were unable to remove guns from the home of the gunman who killed two people on Oct. 24 at a St. Louis high school.
“Two minutes after I got into class, they said the word, the keyword that someone is in a building, 'Miles Davis is in the building,'" said Dachelle Miller, a sophomore at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School.
Miller was in finance class on the third floor when she heard gunshots.
“This is where he shot through a window," she said.
The gunman eventually killed the woman would have been Miller's teacher next semester, 61-year-old Jean Kuczka.
“A lot of people said (she) was their favorite teacher," Miller said.
Her friend, 15-year-old Alexzandria Bell, was also shot to death.
“She was a real sweet and kind," Miller said, “and I'm just thankful that God let me meet her."
Missouri State Rep. Ian Mackey (D-87th District) said they were deaths that didn’t have to happen if the bill he filed in 2021, House Bill 126, had passed.
“(HB126) is a version of a red flag law, a law that several states, red states and blue states have implemented to give police officers tools to intervene in a situation involving an individual who is at risk of harming themselves or harming others with firearms," Mackey said.
The deaths at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School add to a troubling trend. Data shows more people have been injured and killed in school shootings so far this year than in any single year since 2018, when data started being collected by the K-12 School Shooting Database.
The database reported the following numbers of people injured or killed in school shootings in the U.S. since 2018:
- 2022: 302 (as of 10/26/22).
- 2021: 227.
- 2020: 105.
- 2019: 174.
- 2018: 218.
A total of 19 states and Washington D.C. have adopted “red flag laws,” the majority coming after 17 people were killed in a 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Mackey’s bill never had a chance.
“This bill was never assigned to committee," he said. "This bill never saw the light of day."
Mackey said that's why law enforcement were unable to remove guns from the St. Louis school shooter’s home despite warning signs and requests from his parents.
“The red flags were there, but the red flag law wasn't," Mackey said.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department issued a statement on Oct. 27 regarding the gun used in the shooting. It reads, in part:
On 10/8/22, the suspect attempted to buy a firearm from a licensed dealer in St. Charles, Missouri. An FBI background check successfully blocked this sale. As a result, the suspect sought out and bought the rifle used in the school shooting from a private seller …
There is no existing law which would have prevented the private sale … The State of Missouri does not have a red flag law … SLMPD officers did not have clear authority to temporarily seize the rifle when they responded to the suspect’s home when called by the suspect’s mother on 10/15/22.
Had a red flag law been in place, police may have been able to seize the gunman's weapon and prevent the tragedy that unfolded.
Alison Shih, counsel at nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety, said the following in an email regarding the shooting:
The shooter took advantage of a loophole in state law that only existed because Missouri lawmakers have actively dismantled nearly all its gun safety laws, allowing him to purchase the firearm from an unlicensed seller without a background check.
Because of state lawmakers’ insistence on gutting the state’s gun laws, Missouri has nearly no foundational gun safety laws left to help prevent tragedies like this from happening, and communities are paying the price with their lives.
Critics of red flag laws argue they infringe on a constitutional right and would be meaningless.
“All the laws in the world are not going to stop those things when they occur when somebody is a violent criminal and they go out there and commit a crime," Missouri Gov. Mike Parson in an interview on Oct. 27.
But a new study from the University of California’s Violence Prevention Research Program shows in three years, 58 mass shootings may have been prevented with the help of the state’s red flag law. Six of the cases involved minors, all of whom targeted schools.
Research from Everytown for Gun Safety shows states with the weakest gun laws have the highest rates of gun deaths. Missouri has the 4th-highest rate.
“How many more kids going to school and getting shot and killed is it going to take to pass these laws that keep kids safe?" Mackey said.
Mackey said he plans to refile legislation in December to create a red flag law in Missouri.
We’ve reached out to our state’s senators along with the incoming speaker of the House to find out if they’d support it. There was no response by our deadline.