ST. LOUIS, Missouri — Governor Mike Parson (R-Missouri) visited St. Louis police headquarters Thursday afternoon to visit with officers who confronted a school shooter at the Central Visual Performance Arts high school Monday.
Parson expressed gratitude and admiration for police and security guards who ran toward gunfire to bring the school shooting to a swift end, but his understanding or explanation of the state's existing gun laws -- the very ones he signed into law -- contradicted the evidence in the case and a statement from police.
“People have mental health issues, you can take their weapons on that," Parson incorrectly said. "That's part of the bill that was passed and I think you can go in and read that."
5 On Your Side has asked Parson's office to show evidence to support his claims. His spokesperson has not responded to that question.
According to a link Parson's office sent in a press release, the Second Amendment Preservation Act "declares...laws...," and "court orders... invalid...including those that...prohibit the possession, ownership, use, or transfer of a firearm, or the confiscation of one."
Law enforcement also visited the shooter's home on three other occasions this year.
According to police reports obtained by 5 On Your Side's Christine Byers, a crisis response unit visited the home in June -- the shooter attempted suicide on July 6 and made a threat with a violent weapon on July 26 -- and officers visited the home for a domestic disturbance on October 15.
On at least three of those visits, police could have theoretically confiscated any weapons in his possession at the time if state law allowed it.
Police said all the red flags were there. The red flag laws were not.
"The State of Missouri does not have a red flag law," Officer Wall said. "That means 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."
Still, Parson claimed gun safety laws adopted in red states like Indiana and Florida wouldn't have made any difference in Missouri.
"The red flag laws have never been in place in Missouri," Parson said. "You got a criminal that committed a criminal act, you know, and all the laws in the world are not going to stop those things."
An FBI background check successfully blocked the shooter's initial attempt to buy a rifle in St. Charles. Later, the shooter purchased a rifle through a private sale.
Interim St. Louis Police Chief Michael Sack described the challenges in homing-in on precisely where and how 19-year-old school shooter, Orlando Harris, got his hands on an AR-15.
"Tracing firearms is a difficult thing from owner to owner, especially if it's done in a private manner," he said.
Congress just adopted stricter gun safety measures this summer, with the help of Missouri's Senior Senator Roy Blunt.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act cracks down on illegal gun trafficking, expands background checks on unlicensed gun sales, and enhances background checks for buyers under 21, including a longer waiting period for younger gun buyers to complete a transaction.
However, because the rifle used in the school shooting was initially purchased legally from a federal firearms dealer, and then re-sold privately to the school shooter, police in St. Louis said in a statement they were never alerted about the purchase when it occurred.
"The suspect sought out and bought the rifle used in the school shooting from a private seller, who legally purchased the weapon from a federally licensed dealer in December 2020," police Sergeant Charles Wall said. "There is no existing law which would have prevented the private sale between the original purchaser and the suspect in this case."
Parson's visit comes at a tense time in his relationship with police.
The Governor's administration is clashing in court with police in St. Louis, Kansas City, and federal law enforcement agencies over the Second Amendment Preservation Act, a law he signed that threatens officers with $50,000 fines if they try to enforce federal gun laws.
Parson appeared frustrated when he was asked to explain why police departments were suing his administration to overturn his measure blocking gun laws.
"I'm going to tell you something, you know...the cities can take whatever action they want., and that's a legal action they can take," he said. "I've been a law-abiding citizen all my life."
"I am going to support people to have weapons that are law abiding citizens," he said. "I'm never going to take that right away from them. The legislators decided not to do that either."
"That doesn't say you can't take them away from violent criminals," he said.
Parson argued the answer to prevent shootings in schools was to hire more police officers.
"Until we do get more police officers on the streets...'til we start prosecuting violent criminals and locking them up in this state...this is not going to change," he also said.