Recent Missouri editorials

The Jefferson City News-Tribune, Oct. 18

Our Opinion: Less talk, more action on domestic violence

The Show-Me State has many things we can take pride in. But one of our state’s blemishes, and something we don’t talk about enough, is our domestic violence problem.

All states have their own problems with domestic violence, but Missouri’s is worse than most.

Missouri ranks second in the nation in the number of women murdered by men, according to a national study by the Violence Policy Center, KY3 in Springfield recently reported.

With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it’s a good time to bring the issue to the forefront.

Our state has seen a spike in domestic violence calls during the pandemic, and gun sales have surged.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, 99 women were fatally shot by an intimate partner in Missouri from 2014-18.

Nationally, women of color are victims of homicide at higher rates than white women, and more than 55 percent of these killings are committed by an intimate partner.

This past legislative session, lawmakers failed to schedule hearings on any of the five bills that would have protected Missouri communities, Everytown for Gun Safety said in a news release. That was despite 400 members of Moms Demand Action who advocated for legislation to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers.

The Columbia Missourian reported in June that under the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, it’s illegal to “purchase, receive or possess” a firearm if someone has been “convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.” When it became legal to conceal and carry without a permit in Missouri, law enforcement lost a method of restricting guns based on background checks, which they would have done when issuing permits.

We ask lawmakers to correct this during the next legislative session, and we urge the public to urge their elected representatives to do so.

Meanwhile, if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, available 24/7, for confidential assistance from a trained advocate. You can also chat online at thehotline.org.

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The Joplin Globe, Oct. 18

Do you want to amend the Missouri Constitution to extend the two-term restriction that currently applies to the governor and treasurer to the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor and the attorney general? State and local governmental entities estimate no costs or savings from this proposal. A “yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to impose a two-term restriction on all statewide elected officials, which currently only applies to the governor and treasurer.

A “no” vote will leave the terms that statewide elected officials may serve unchanged.

Term limits in general are popular, though how popular depends on the branch of government and the office under consideration. Governors are term limited in 36 of the 50 states, including Missouri. Amendment 1 on the Nov. 3 ballot would mean all six statewide elected officials would be limited to no more than two four-year terms in office.

The governor and treasurer are already subject to term limits of two four-year terms. The other officials are: lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, state treasurer and attorney general. All the statewide elected officials serve four-year terms, but the auditor is elected in even-numbered, nonpresidential election years, out of cycle with the other offices.

In the Globe’s recent unscientific online poll, 87% of readers who responded said they supported the measure. We suspect that is representative of voter sentiment and the measure is likely to pass, but there are some things residents should know and consider before casting their ballots:

• Term limits bring new people into elected offices.

• Incumbents have a huge advantage in elections through increased name recognition and the likelihood of raising more money than a challenger.

• Term limits already exist — we call them elections.

• Term limits take choices away from voters, preventing otherwise qualified candidates from seeking reelection.

• Term limits can increase polarization. Relationships and experience tend to allow for coalition building and compromise necessary for governing.

• Term limits often are seen as a way to reduce the influence of lobbyists and special interest influence by reducing entrenched relationships with officials.

• Term limits mean officials are less experienced, making them more dependent on those with deeper institutional and policy knowledge — lobbyists, unelected staffers and policy wonks — to deal with complex issues. This can put more public business into the hands of people we haven’t elected.

The drive for term limits is largely based on opposition to creating a governing class, concern that time in office can make leaders distant from their constituents and the assumption that greater time in office will make political figures corrupt. Public servants argue otherwise, and there are other effects to consider when casting your ballot.

All potential effects of the change should be weighed before you cast your ballot.

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The Kansas City Star, Oct. 13

Missouri Governor Mike Parson should know how the criminal justice system works.

Parson is a former Polk County sheriff, yet he wants to pardon a St. Louis couple for crimes they have yet to be tried for or convicted of.

Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who became a conservative cause célèbre after waving guns at protesters outside their home, were indicted last week by a grand jury for unlawful use of a weapon, a felony, and evidence tampering.

In June, Mark McCloskey pointed an AR-15 rifle at racial injustice protesters, prosecutors allege. Pat McCloskey is accused of provoking fear of injury among the protesters by placing her finger on the trigger of a semiautomatic handgun.

The couple, who spoke at the Republican National Convention after being arrested, is innocent until proven guilty and of course should have their day in court.

But the McCloskeys’ powerful Republican allies in Jefferson City and Washington, D.C., don’t seem to think these gun-wielding criminal suspects should have to bother with the judicial system.

Parson has said he “most certainly would” pardon the McCloskeys if they’re convicted.

That’s a stunning statement from a governor who has been unwilling to act on a crushing backlog of petitions for clemency and pardons and has kept thousands of people behind bars and in legal limbo.

As governor, Parson has shown little interest in exercising his power to pardon anyone for a criminal act — or to reduce individuals’ sentences. He has been unmoved by cases such as that of Bobby Bostic, who was 16 when he was tried as an adult and found guilty of armed robbery and kidnapping.

Two shooting victims survived, but a judge sentenced Bostic to 241 years in prison, a penalty that civil rights advocates say is unconstitutional for a teenager who commits a crime other than homicide. The sentencing judge, Evelyn Baker, now retired, joined an amicus brief in support of Bostic’s appeal.

But Parson has not ruled on a clemency request filed on Bostic’s behalf.

The case of convicted killer Ken Middleton also sits on the governor’s desk. Middleton, of Blue Springs, is serving a life sentence for the shooting death of his wife. Both evidence and ballistic experts have cast doubt on Middleton’s guilt. Forensic analysts concluded the fatal shooting of Middleton’s wife, Kathy, was accidental.

In 2006, the Missouri Court of Appeals in Kansas City overturned a judge’s decision to vacate Middleton’s conviction. Family and attorneys have petitioned Parson’s administration for clemency, but no decision has been made.

Women convicted of murdering their abusive husbands to protect themselves or their children have pleaded to Parson for mercy to no avail.

Parson also denied the commutation request of convicted killer Russell Bucklew, who was suffering from a rare disease that would cause excruciating pain during lethal injection. He was put to death anyway.

Parson doesn’t feel compelled to take action in cases that are worthy of his consideration. Why is he prematurely wading into this one?

A campaign spokesman for State Auditor Nicole Galloway, the Democratic nominee for governor, said Parson has inserted himself into a local matter for entirely political reasons.

Given Parson’s perpetual inaction on pardons, it’s hard to see any nonpolitical reason for singling out the McCloskeys’ case — before it even goes to trial no less.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Parson’s hand-picked appointee, has filed a motion to dismiss the case. The legal salvo was Schmitt’s latest attempt to undermine St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat.

Mark McCloskey claims the couple is being “persecuted” for exercising their constitutional right to bear arms and defend their property. Video of the encounter tells a different story, prosecutors say.

A grand jury agreed that there was probable cause the couple broke the law, and the McCloskeys’ claim that protesters posed a threat has not been backed up by any evidence.

Those charged with crimes are afforded due process in the court of law. A judge or jury determines, based on evidence presented in court, their guilt or innocence.

Regardless of Parson’s views, he should not put his thumb on the scale before the case goes to trial. By signaling now that he plans to pardon the McCloskeys, he’s short-circuiting the legal process, sending the message to attorneys, jurors, the judge and anyone else involved that their work — and any new facts that emerge — won’t matter because he’s decided to undo any outcome he doesn’t like.

Parson claims to be a “law and order” governor, but in this case, scoring political points is clearly a higher priority.