JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Members of the state government are taking a stand this year in an effort to protect the law enforcement officers and first responders of Missouri.
Rep.-elect Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, is one such legislator. The new representative’s first four bills pre-filed all center around the issues of crime and safety in some way. Two bills in particular, HB 86 and HB 273, focus on crimes committed against police and first responders.
“The protection of our first responders and law enforcement, and the protection of the people in the state of Missouri is going to be one of the hot topic issues, and one of the main goals this session,” Schroer said.
While on the two-week freshman tour this December, the District 107 representative said he had the opportunity to talk to members of law enforcement about the bills. He said that while talking to these men and women, not only do these departments realize that it makes their jobs more difficult, it also makes it more difficult to recruit in these fields.
“I’ve always had a massive respect for them and what they do,” Schroer said. “When I see across the nation these kinds of attacks on law enforcement, whether it’s verbal or physical, it’s something we need to do something about it. We have these special people who are willing to go and fight crime, and the laws we have on the books right now are not enough to deter attacks on our law enforcement and first responders.”
HB 86 adds crimes against police to the list of hate crimes, a bill that is identical to that of HB 57, a bill pre-filed by Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-St. Louis.
“It’s kind of comforting, knowing that I’m not the only person who thinks this is an issue, and that we need to tackle it immediately,” Schroer said. “Knowing that from freshman like me, all of the way up to the governor, this is an issue that ever single district, and every single voter, is impacted by.”
But perhaps the more interesting of the two bills is HB 273, which increases the penalties for crimes committed against law enforcement and emergency responders.
Under the proposed bill, each felony offense of manslaughter or assault would be upgraded to the next category. For example, the class B felony offense of voluntary manslaughter would be upgraded to a Class A felony if committed against officers or emergency personnel, while the first degree involuntary manslaughter would be upgraded from a class C felony to a class B.
The issue of assault takes a little more explanation, because the law already gives a special consideration to persons designated as “special victims”. Second degree assault is classified as a class D felony; against “special victims” it is upgraded to a class B felony. Schroer’s proposal takes that one step further for law enforcement, coming in at a class A felony.
With each upgraded charge, the penalty is made harsher.
Another bill he has proposed takes aim at businesses banning guns. The proposed bill would discourage businesses from banning guns by allowing for the business to be sued if anyone inside is hurt in a crime or attacked in an event in which a gun could have protected them. The bill includes exemptions for sports stadiums, bars, churches, zoos and amusement parks.
Schroer’s final bill looks to update the laws concerning crimes involving juvenile defendants. His bill, simply put, attempts to require that everyone under the age of 18 be prosecuted as juveniles for most crimes, unless the child is “certified as an adult”. The pre-filed bill would update the legal language, replacing the age of 17 with 18, meeting the typical age considered to be adulthood.
Schroer’s background in criminal justice played a major role in his decisions to file these bills.
“I’ve defended people, people who have attacked police in the past, because they came and hired the firm I used to work for,” Schroer said. He hopes that these bills give prosecutors more tools in the fight to protect officers, while at the same time deter criminals before they do something they can’t take back. He says that while it’s unlikely laws can end 100 percent of the crimes, the chance to increase safety is well worth it.
“I don’t know if any law is going to stop somebody, but I’m hoping it deters them,” he said. “Not every crime is going to be that severe, but I’m hoping it will open people’s eyes to make them think twice about attacking these men and women when they are simply trying to do their job.
“I hope that this will give a little bit of protection and a little bit of comfort when they’re out in the streets, so they know that if someone wants to attack them, there’s a price to pay.”
To sum it all up, Schroer sees an opportunity to handle issues of safety here in the Show Me State, which he believes can be accomplished by first taking smaller steps on which to build on. But most importantly, he views it as a chance for Missourians to handle their issues on their own.
“I’m done with other people dealing with our problems, and I wanted to take it into my own hands and represent the people of Missouri, as well as law enforcement. I have their support, and they have mine.”