Parson says Missouri should ignore federal laws that prevent abusers from owning guns
In an interview with KCUR's Up To Date, the Missouri governor also discussed budget priorities, state gun laws and the fallout from last week's failed confirmation hearing to nominate a new state health department director.
During an appearance on KCUR’s Up to Date on Tuesday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson discussed his COVID-19 policies, conflict within the Republican Party, proposed gun laws, his attempts to prosecute a journalist for identifying a problem on a state agency’s website and other matters.
On Monday, the Missouri Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Act, which was enacted last year and bars Missouri law enforcement agencies from enforcing various federal gun laws.
Defending the legislation, Parson said a “vast majority of people” in Missouri believe in their Second Amendment rights.
He also said he was opposed to an outright prohibition of firearms for people involved in domestic violence. But he said domestic violence involving guns should be treated differently from domestic violence where firearms are not involved.
Parson said he was opposed to an outright ban on convicted domestic abusers owning guns if they were convicted years ago.
“I don't know that you want to absolutely just say, ‘OK, it's a gun violation of some sort’ if there's not a gun involved,” he said.
Extensive research has shown domestic violence is more likely if there’s a gun in the home.
Missouri’s health director
Parson last week called the Missouri Senate’s failure to approve Don Kauerauf as state health director “nothing short of disgraceful.” More than 100 Missouri residents protested his nomination because Kauerauf had promoted COVID-19 vaccinations, although he also opposed vaccination and mask mandates. The Republican-controlled Senate failed to take action on his confirmation, and Kauerauf, who had been serving as the acting state health director, resigned the next day.
But Parson was also criticized for saying that he “would not have nominated someone who does not share the same Christian values.”
Asked about that statement, Parson said a nominee doesn’t have to share his Christian beliefs and that his office has appointed people who are not Christian.
“That's never been a litmus test for me to come in and say, ‘OK, you gotta believe like I believe,’ but I do want those values in a person,” Parson said. “And as governor, that's OK if I want that.”
Parson said his office is working to find a replacement for Kauerauf, adding that the candidate does not have to oppose COVID-19 vaccinations.
“It's pretty difficult to recruit somebody to change their profession to come in and be the health director in the state, knowing that I'm only going to be here for three years, and they will not know what the certainty is after that,” Parson said. “So when you talk about these director positions, that all comes into play. So it may be somebody internally that we put in there, we'll just have to see how this works out.”
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has sued 45 school districts, including Kansas City Public Schools and districts in Liberty, Independence, Lee’s Summit and North Kansas City.
Parson said he agreed with Schmitt’s actions and asserted that parents should decide what’s best for their kids.
“I think people are so done with this and have been for months,” Parson said. “If you go out to eat, if you go out to a sporting event, if you go to any events, I mean, people are so done with this. And at some point, we’ve gotta get out of the business of mandates.”
In November, a Cole County judge ruled that local health authorities are not authorized to issue mask mandates. Parson said there should be more clarification on what local health departments can do.
Parson said he supported amending Missouri’s open records law to restrict the kinds of records that government agencies must make available to the public.
He said record requests were exacting a “large toll on government agencies.”
“You're getting blanket requests now for, ‘We want all your records for the last six months,’” Parson said. “And it's just getting to be very cumbersome to be able to deliver that.”
He also wants to charge fees for attorneys to review public records. That proposal runs counter to a Missouri Supreme Court ruling that attorney review time should not count as “research time” under the state’s Sunshine Law.
Parson has been widely criticized for pushing for a criminal investigation of a St. Louis Post Dispatch reporter who alerted the state to data and privacy vulnerabilities on the website of the Department of Education and Secondary Education. The reporter found that teachers’ Social Security numbers were accessible through the site’s HTML code. Parson had called the reporter a “hacker,” although the reporter alerted the state to the issue and the newspaper withheld the story until after officials moved to protect the information.
“We don't want anybody doing that,” Parson said. “I don't care whether your private government or whoever you are, I don't think we want people trying to get into a system and then take the information out. That was the real problem with it.”
Kevin Strickland case
Parson also addressed the case of Kevin Strickland, who was incarcerated for 43 years for a crime he did not commit and was freed last November. Parson refused to pardon Strickland, despite urges from Kansas City’s City Council.
Missouri’s narrow compensation laws only provide money to those who prove their innocence through DNA testing, which wasn’t the case with Strickland. A bill proposed by Rep. Mark Sharp, a Kansas City Democrat, would allow people exonerated by other means to be eligible for payments.
Parson said he’s unsure of who would be responsible for making those payments if the bill passes.
“I just think to say, OK, all the taxpayers in the state of Missouri are responsible for that, I don't know,” Parson said. “If he was wrongfully convicted in a county or in a city, what responsibility do they have to that?”
Parson has pushed to increase pay for state employees to help stem turnover rates, which stand at 26%. An emergency supplemental budget bill would have provided state workers a 5.5% cost-of-living adjustment and established a $15/hour minimum base pay.
This week, the House Budget Committee approved the supplemental budget bill by a 22-8 vote, but only after amending the policy so that the $15 minimum wage goes only to state employees who care for people.
Parson said the state needs to be competitive with wages in the private market.
“We're just like everybody else — we're competing in the workforce and we gotta do a better job of it,” he said.
Another budget priority, he said, is taking advantage of federal funding to improve Missouri infrastructure. Parson called it a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to invest in higher education, create more scholarships and bolster the state’s child-care infrastructure.
“I think by building those institutions up, making sure we're building things that create a workforce, is something we really want to capitalize on,” Parson said.
But he also said local governments need to contribute funds as well and not rely solely on state funding.