The speaker of the Missouri House said he hopes to have a proposal aimed at combatting gun violence ready to debate next year, but critics say action needs to be taken sooner as the death toll mounts in the state’s largest cities.

Republican Rep. Elijah Haahr, of Springfield, said some GOP lawmakers are researching what other cities have done to reduce bloodshed as they develop the proposal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“Obviously, we’ve got a bit of time before the next session starts in January,” Haahr said.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said Wednesday that she was unaware of any involvement by Democratic lawmakers in Haahr’s effort and that she would be interested in seeing what issues the Republicans want to focus on.

“But, as we’ve been saying for a while now, we can’t wait until January,” Quade said.

St. Louis has had about 140 homicides in 2019 and is on pace to top last year’s total of 186. Eleven of this year’s victims were children and two other child deaths are being investigated as suspicious.

Violence also is a problem in Kansas City, where efforts to reduce homicides drew national attention in 2014, when just 82 killings occurred. But Kansas City had 111 homicides in 2015, 131 in 2016, 151 in 2017 and 138 in 2018. Police tallied 107 homicides in 2019 as of Thursday, including five during a 24-hour span earlier this week.

Black lawmakers called on Republican Gov. Mike Parson to expand this week’s special session on used vehicle sales taxes to allow them to address gun violence. Parson, who has met with St. Louis-area leaders multiple times in recent weeks, declined.

Parson said Tuesday that a crime-fighting plan will be announced soon, although he has cautioned that he wants to protect the Second Amendment rights of Missourians. Parson has said he supports directing the Missouri State Highway Patrol to take over some St. Louis-area highways to free up city officers for other crime-fighting efforts.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, is calling on Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, to form a special Senate committee to address the violence. She and Schatz were scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss the panel. Nasheed said the meetings would give senators the chance to hear from shooting victims and experts to inform policy proposals for the legislative session that starts in January. She said the committee must address socioeconomic factors that contribute to violence.

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