Politics

St. Louis mayor’s gun control stance questioned after private texts made public

Democratic St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones’ support of gun control is coming into question after an open records request released thousands of her personal texts, including one that argued gun crackdowns are ineffective.

“Chicago has strict gun laws as well but that doesn’t deter gun violence,” Jones texted in a group chat to her dad, Virvus Jones and advisor Richard Callow on March 21, KSDK reported. “It’s about investing in the people.”

Thousands of Jones’ texts from her personal cellphone were publicly released last week after KSDK and the St. Louis Business Journal filed separate Sunshine Act requests for her communications regarding the political appointment process for a Circuit Attorney.

Her private message appears to contradict public comments she has made in the past, including after a mass shooting in the city last month that killed one and left 11 others injured.

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St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones stands for a portrait during a food distribution event at the Northwest Academy of Law High School in the Walnut Park East neighborhood in north St. Louis on July 21, 2021. (The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“Our state’s lax gun laws make our challenge even more difficult,” Jones said in June following the shooting. “The legislature’s lack of action on gun safety laws encourages the proliferation of guns on our streets and puts our responding officers directly in harm’s way.”

Jones also joined other cities across the country in declaring June 3 as “Gun Violence Awareness Day,” where the mayor argued the Senate “must protect our families” by “expanding background checks to all gun sales, regulating assault weapons, and passing a federal red flag law.” 

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In another text to her father and Callow, Jones recounted how Newark, New Jersey, has similar demographics to St. Louis, but far fewer murders, citing Newark’s investment in violence prevention programs.

“Newark, NJ has the same size population, same size police force, and similar racial demographics, yet had 50 murders in 2022,” she wrote, KSDK reported. “I visited these programs first hand and I know that they work. We just need the will….”

St. Louis

St. Louis, Missouri skyline on Mississippi River from East St. Louis, Illinois. (Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

St. Louis recorded 200 homicides in 2022, 201 in 2021, and 263 in 2020, according to data published by the St. Louis Police Department. The city often has one of the highest murder rates in the nation, alongside cities such as Chicago and Baltimore.

The mayor’s office has since gone into “damage control mode,” according to KSDK, with Jones’ spokesman releasing a statement last week clarifying the mayor’s stance on gun control.

“Gun laws are just one part of the solution,” Jones spokesman Nick Desideri said. “There’s a difference between deterring behavior and making it harder to get firearms and weaponry; for example, there’s no doubt that gun laws in the blue region around Newark help reduce violence as opposed to here.”

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In other texts, Jones appeared to agree with her public statements in support of gun control.

“We have way too many guns on our streets and no way to take them away,” she said in a text message on May 10, according to KSDK.

They mayor also took issue with an op-ed written by Republican state Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, which argued for city leaders to emphasize education, employment training and economic development to reverse crime trends in St. Louis. 

St. Louis cop car

A St. Louis police vehicle sits outside the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri on Nov. 15, 2015. (Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

“St. Louis needs to clean up its act in many ways. It starts with reducing crime. We are also working to improve our schools statewide and there’s no better place to start than in St. Louis. The costs of crime and an unskilled workforce is costing the entire state in many ways,” O’Laughlin wrote in The Missouri Times. 

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Jones mocked the op-ed on text, summing it up as “basically” saying, “‘Thanks for staying in STL even tho we’re responsible for the horrific amount of guns on your streets.'” 

Desideri took to Twitter last week to share a message from Jones, which stated the texts were released due to an “honest mistake.”

 St. Louis mayor

ST LOUIS, MO – SEPTEMBER 15: St. Louis mayor Tishaura Jones talks with reporters during the press conference hosted by World Wide Technology Raceway announcing the date of their NASCAR Cup Series Race for the 2022 season on September 15, 2021, at Bally Sports Live in Ballpark Village in St. Louis, Missouri. (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“I’ve never been one to hide my feelings,” the message relayed by the spokesman stated. “Through an honest mistake, text messages between my family and close friends were released to the public. Sometimes my words can be terse, and my text messages speak for themselves. I understand the impact of some of my comments, and will contact the relevant parties to ensure productive dialogue moving forward.” 

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The texts between Jones, her father and Callow were gathered following the open records requests in connection to Kim Gardner stepping down in May as St. Louis circuit attorney. Typically, such materials are reviewed and portions redacted before they are released to the public, but the texts were published wholesale in a 135-page PDF document, according to KSDK.

The PDF was removed just a couple days after it was published and replaced with a shorter and redacted version.

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The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for additional comment on the matter.

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