Opinion: Kansas City’s Homicide Problem is a Result of Missouri’s Gun Problem

If Missouri cities want to do something about violent crime, Jefferson City has to do something about gun laws

With few requirements to own a gun, Kansas City is in the top ten most violent cities in the nation.

Maddy Bremer, Co-News Editor

  I’m sick of seeing headlines about Kansas City’s homicide rate. The solution is simple: if Missouri cities want to do something about violent crime, Jefferson City has to do something about gun laws. 

 When I started this story, I wanted it to be impartial. I thought I could write 500 words about the contributing factors that make Kansas City the eighth most violent city in the nation and have caused record-breaking homicide rates for the past three years. 

  However, it’s impossible to talk about homicide without talking about guns, and the more I learned about Missouri’s gun laws, the more appalled I became.

  To write the original story, I interviewed KCPD officers, UMKC department chairs and graduate students studying violent crime in Kansas City. Everyone said the issue goes back to firearms, specifically, the laws allowing them to run rampant in Missouri. 

  Dr. Kenneth Novak, professor of criminal justice and criminology at UMKC, discussed several reasons why Kansas City’s homicide rate is so high; one of which is “simply the availability and accessibility of guns.”

  “When we talk about homicides, we’re largely talking about guns,” Novak said. “Nine out of 10 homicides are with a firearm–we can’t ignore that.” 

  According to Novak, Missouri has some of the laxest policies in the nation regarding firearms. 

  An article in The Kansas City Star comparing gun laws in Missouri and Kansas explains that neither state requires gun owners to be licensed, and there are no mandatory waiting periods to purchase a gun. Missouri also has an anything-goes concealed carry policy; anyone can legally carry a concealed firearm in nearly all spaces without a permit. Kansas has a similar policy, though permits are required for people aged 18-21 to conceal carry. 

  On top of laissez-faire policies, the state legislature makes it nearly impossible to implement any safety measures. As recently as Feb. 8, the Missouri House shot down a bill preventing minors from carrying firearms in public without adult supervision.  

  Alejandro Cervantes, a graduate student in the criminal justice department, is studying gun violence in Kansas City. He informed me of a state law that essentially nullified all federal laws regarding firearms in Missouri. 

  In 2021, Governor Mike Parson signed the Second Amendment Preservation Act into state law in a gun shop. Though recently deemed unconstitutional by a federal court, for over a year, the bill prevented Missouri law enforcement from enforcing any federal gun laws in the state with possible fines of up to $50,000. 

  Missouri’s gun laws are almost laughable. It’s hard to imagine that politicians who claim to be “tough on crime,” “stand up for victims” and “crackdown on violent crime” would make it impossible for laws–that would do just that–to be enforced. 

  When I started writing this opinion, it came from a place of concern–now it’s personal.

   I had my own experience with gun violence a few weeks ago. At the Chiefs celebration parade, my roommates and I found a spot with a clear view of Union Station. We were behind a family that arrived at 9 a.m. with their lawn chairs. A man had asked to get through, and when the family refused, some shoving ensued, and a gun was flashed to the crowd. 

  We ran, with the fear anything could happen–luckily it didn’t. I don’t doubt the gun was being carried legally, but that’s part of the problem. 

  The most frustrating part is that the solution is so simple: if most homicides are committed via gun violence and guns are widely available, why not enforce even the most basic legislation to prevent gun violence? 

  I’m tired of living in fear that any disgruntled customer could have a weapon when I go to work–that any road rage-inflicted driver might have a gun when I’m on the road.  

  However, gun violence is an issue that extends beyond Kansas City and the state of Missouri. According to KCPD public information officer Donna Drake, violent crime is something that affects us all. 

  “Crime, particularly violent crime, is a multi-factorial challenge to the communities affected by it,” Drake said. “This isn’t a Kansas City-specific problem but a problem for our nation.”

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