Missourians would be asked to remember children killed by violence in the state, and to work to prevent more such deaths, under a bill passed out of the state House.
The bill filed by Representative Bruce Franks, Junior, (R-St. Louis City), would ask Missourians to do those things on June 7 – the anniversary of his brother’s death.
“His name was Christopher Harris and he was nine years old. I was six,” Franks said while emotionally presenting House Bill 183 to the full House.
Franks told his fellow legislators about how his brother was killed on that day in 1991, while the two were playing baseball on the street they grew up on.
“Two men came out the house arguing. In our community that’s what we’re used to. We didn’t pay any attention to it. We kept going, kept playing baseball, as most kids do. As my brother rounded second one of the men pulled out a gun. The other man picked my brother up simultaneously, and as the other man shot, the other one used my brother as a human shield.”
Franks said the bill would make June 7, “Youth Violence Prevention Day,” in Missouri. He said it would be more than, “having another day where we name a day after somebody, but we spark a day of advocacy, a day of action, and a day against youth violence.”
Franks, as he has done with many other issues, urged his fellows not to think of gun violence as an issue limited to any one part or few parts of the state.
“I saw this as an opportunity to bring light to a situation that has plagued my family and many other families throughout our nation. This has been my normal. This shouldn’t be anybody’s normal,” said Franks. “The issues that affect us when it comes to youth violence, when it comes to gun violence, is not just an issue in the City of St. Louis, but it’s an issue for each and every person here that represents Missourians.”
Franks asked that the legislators remember what happened to his brother and work to educate others statewide about youth violence prevention.
He recalled that when he and other freshmen members of the legislature toured the state, they saw the statue of his brother that stands outside of SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis.
“No matter what side we’re on, no matter how we feel about our Second Amendment rights; stand your ground, open carry, assault bans, bans on weapons – none of that would have kept my brother alive,” Franks told House members. “What would have kept my brother alive is those same two men, who were actually family friends who grew up in the same disenfranchised community as me and my father, who felt like they need to live the life that they live, the lack of resources, the lack of education, the lack of opportunity – that’s what would’ve saved my brother.”
Franks’ bill was passed out of the House 156-1. He received a standing ovation from the rest of the chamber’s members after presenting it on the floor.
The bill would encourage Missourians to observe June 7 through education related to safety and violence prevention. It now goes to the state Senate.