Messenger: Ralph Yarl is collateral damage in Missouri’s war against gun safety

Gun Rights

Gov. Mike Parson made it more likely for a paranoid white man in Missouri to stand in his house and shoot a Black teenager through a closed glass door.

We know this because Parson has bragged about it.

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Long before he was governor, Parson, a former sheriff, was a Republican member of the Missouri House in 2007. The Legislature that year passed Senate Bill 62, which was backed by the National Rifle Association and expanded the state’s castle doctrine, among other things.

The castle doctrine is a “stand your ground” legal concept that allows a homeowner to defend their property. But in Missouri, since 2007, it’s been much more than that.

The law, which was made even worse in 2016, protects a gun-toting homeowner from both criminal and civil liability in most cases if they shoot an intruder in their house, by their car or pretty much anywhere — as long as they claim to be afraid.

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Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old Kansas City teenager who knocked on the door of the wrong house while he was looking to round up his siblings, was shot by 84-year-old Andrew D. Lester, who says he was afraid of harm. Yarl is Black. Lester is white. According to his grandson, Lester watches a lot of right-wing media, plunging into fear and paranoia.

It’s no wonder. Let’s travel back to the summer of 2020, when two wealthy, white St. Louis homeowners, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, waved their firearms at protesters — most of them Black — who were walking past their home. At the time, Parson claimed the castle doctrine law that he voted for in 2007 should have protected the couple from the charges they eventually faced.

He ran to Fox News — as did former President Donald Trump and other Republicans — to come to the McCloskeys’ defense. How dare they be charged for facing down the scary mob, the governor said.

“The castle doctrine, which I helped write in the state of Missouri, they did what they legally should do,” Parson said at the time. “A mob does not have the right to charge your property or come on your property not knowing what the intent is. They had every right to protect themselves.”

There was no “mob.” The McCloskeys were never in danger. But if all you ever watch is a network that just agreed to pay out nearly $800 million in a record settlement for its election-related lies, how are you to know?

Parson’s understanding of the law that he says he helped write — legislative records cast some doubt on that — was mistaken. But his fear-mongering served its purpose.

Indeed, plenty of white men who spend their time watching the well-documented lies of Fox News are afraid. Afraid enough to shoot first and ask questions later. Who can blame them when Parson promised the McCloskeys a pre-emptive pardon before they were even charged with a crime? It’s open season on scared white people waving their guns at Black people who dare to even walk on sidewalks near the homes, the governor said in his actions.

This is the state of gun laws in Missouri, and it’s deadly. One provision of that 2007 law was the repeal of the need to get a permit to buy a handgun. For much of Missouri’s history, a person who wanted to buy a gun had to go see their local sheriff or police chief to get such a permit.

Missouri got rid of that provision in 2007, opening the flood gates to more gun deaths.

Getting rid of the permitting requirement led to between 49 and 68 additional firearms deaths a year in Missouri, Johns Hopkins researchers found in 2021. And since then, guns have become the leading cause of death among children in Missouri and the nation.

Yarl, thank goodness, didn’t die from his gun wounds, even after Lester opened the door and shot the teen a second time as he lay on the porch bleeding. Yarl is home recovering. But Parson’s Republican allies in the Missouri Legislature could make it even more likely that Yarl will continue to face gun violence in Missouri, recently advancing a bill to make it legal to carry guns on buses and trains, and in churches and schools.

More guns, everywhere, with no oversight. This is the world Parson and his NRA-backed friends have created. Yarl is just collateral damage.

“What kind of world are we creating with these kinds of laws?” Rep. Barbara Phifer, D-St. Louis, asked during a debate on the bill.

It’s a good question, and, sadly, the answer is in our headlines every day — with a kid shot on a neighbor’s porch, children and teachers dying in schools, and grocery stores, churches and synagogues turned into firing ranges.

“It’s absolute insanity,” Phifer says, “and it’s morally corrupt.”

A day after Ralph Yarl returned home from the hospital after being shot last week in Kansas City, Missouri, hundreds of Staley High School students and staff participated in a unity walk to offer support.Yarl, a Black 16-year-old, was shot twice by a White homeowner on April 13 after he mistakenly went to the wrong home to pick up his two younger brothers.”I was out here to support my friend Ralph through this time he is going through today,” said Maddox, Ralph’s friend and junior at Staley, after the unity walk Tuesday morning.Maddox said he wasn’t surprised by the volume of students and staff who walked in support of Yarl because everyone is “willing to support a friend at our school.”Yarl’s classmates chanted, “We love you, Ralph,” and “Justice for Ralph,” as they walked in a circle around their school’s campus to show support. Approximately 1,500 students were present for the walk, which is the majority of the Staley student body, according to a school official.Eliana, a junior who has played music with Yarl since they were in the sixth grade, said her favorite thing about Yarl is how knowledgeable he is, especially when it comes to music.”I love getting to talk to him about the clarinet, about reeds and music in general,” she said.Students wore blue, Yarl’s favorite color, or Staley spirit wear, and displayed posters as they walked in support.”We stand with you, we support you and know that we’re going to be here for you,” said Staley High School senior Cayla, who helped organize the unity walk.Additional resources are available for students at Staley High School and other North Kansas City schools this week, according to NKC superintendent Dan Clemens.SEE MORE: Ralph Yarl expected to make full recovery; shooter out on bond


Justice will win, says St. Louis pastor who sees direct connection between actions in Tennessee and Missouri. 

Republicans’ long attempt to create federal gun nullification law fails in court. 

Shannon Watts has ties to St. Louis and says the recent school shooting in the city could have been prevented.

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