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Missouri lawmaker pays tribute to former teacher killed in school shooting

Rep. LaKeySha Bosley (D-St Louis) paid tribute to school shooting victims at a candlelight vigil. One of the victims was her former teacher.

ST. LOUIS — When LaKeySha Bosley approached the stage to speak to a crowd of mourners grieving a school shooting, she wasn't just another politician promising to pass gun control measures. She was grieving her own former teacher.

"She was a great teacher," Bosley remembered. "She never gave up on me."

Jean Kuczka, a 61-year-old health teacher at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, was one of two victims shot and killed in the Monday morning school shooting.

Bosley wiped tears away from her eyes as she recounted the grim tale of Kuczka stepping into the line of fire to protect her students from the gunfire.

"She chose life," Bosley said. "She chose to save her children. She chose to save those scholars. She gave them another day."

Bosley, a Missouri House Democrat from St. Louis, was one of several elected officials to join the outcry, condemn school shootings, and connect grieving families with resources at a candlelight vigil in Tower Grove Park on Monday tonight.

As law enforcement pieces together what happened inside Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, some public officials felt it was still too early in the process for them to try and prescribe specific solutions tailored to this tragedy. But in times of public grieving, elected officials can also convey a composite of the public sentiment, express pain and outrage on their behalf, and point our collective conscience toward a potential remedy.

Congresswoman Cori Bush (D-Missouri), an ordained minister, appeared to play more of a pastoral role than a political one. After several speakers, some of them mothers of school-age children, demanded action from elected officials, Bush urged them not to wait on a vote from politicians that may never come, but to take action now, to reach out to people in their own homes or communities who may be hurting, and show them love before they lash out in violence.

“We gotta think about who we don’t see right now,” Bush said. “This thing started before today. We have to not be reactive.”

Other candidates gave more specific proposals about legislation.

"We have to stop the violence that is going on in our schools," Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Trudy Busch Valentine said outside the vigil. "It never ends. Now it's happened in St. Louis. It should end here."

Valentine questioned why the school shooter, a 19-year-old, was allowed access to a long gun in the first place.

"The federal law is that pistols cannot be sold to people under 21," she said. "Here we're selling long guns to 18-year-olds. It's totally wrong."

Valentine has previously said she would support a federal law restricting the sale of assault weapons to people under 21.

Her Republican opponent, Missouri's Attorney General Eric Schmitt, reacted to the school shooting in a tweet on Monday morning.

"Our hearts are with the students at the Central Visual and Performing Arts School and their families as they seek to heal from this senseless tragedy, and we commend the brave men and women of law enforcement for their quick and decisive action," he wrote.

"Our hearts go out to the victims and their families," Governor Mike Parson tweeted, adding that he and his wife "are praying for the victims, their families, and the entire community."

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones told reporters she spoke to Parson over the phone earlier that day.

"He has offered more mental health resources," she said, adding that now was not the time for her to political debates over state gun laws she considers too lax.

"We wanted to make sure that we talked about the victims in this moment," she said. "That's a conversation about public safety we can have at a later time, but right now, we're focused on the recovery of our family and the healing of our community."

Jones visited those same students as they walked into the high school on the first day of the new school year. KSDK cameras rolled as Jones asked students what problems they would address if they had a magic wand.

"They did talk about violence in the streets," she recalled, "but they never thought that they would be experiencing that in their school."


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