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'This is life and death': Kansas City mayor says state should let city act on gun laws

Kaitlin Washburn and Jeanne Kuang, The Kansas City Star on

Published in News & Features

On Friday, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas noted that for six years Missouri cities have been prevented from enacting their own gun control measures, something he said hamstrings him in addressing the shootings and killings that plague the city.

The comment came days after a particularly violent weekend in Kansas City made national news, and hours before two teenagers were shot and killed leaving a Ramadan service later that night.

Lucas said he would like to be able to promote city ordinances to stop easy access to illegal firearms that flood the streets. But he can't, because the Missouri General Assembly in 2014 preempted cities from making their own gun laws.

And at the statehouse, advocates for stricter gun laws have hit a wall for years before a Republican-dominated legislature that has pushed instead to loosen gun restrictions.

"Let us find a way to try to save the babies who are dying on our streets, each and every day," Lucas said. Kansas City had recorded 53 homicides as of Friday, after setting a record of 182 in 2020, according to data maintained by The Star.

"This isn't politics, this is life and death," Lucas said. "And the fact that I'm one Black man of many Black people who personally know victims of homicide in recent years, it shouldn't be like that. It's going to continue to be like that till we're allowed to actually self-determine how we want to be safe in this community."

 

But at the state level, firearms restrictions of any kind — even penalties for celebratory gunfire and restricted access to guns for domestic violence offenders — have not passed easily. Some have made progress only when attached to bills loosening other gun restrictions.

Democrats and gun safety activists who have worked for years on other gun safety measures said they have little hope of success.

For years, Democratic lawmakers have introduced some combination of bills to ban high-capacity magazines or require background checks or waiting periods before a gun purchase. Other legislation would let families or police ask judges to temporarily take guns away from people who demonstrate "extreme risks" to themselves or others — known commonly as a "red flag" law.

For at least the past five years, the bills have gone nowhere.

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