After North Kansas City police officers said they sometimes couldn’t do much when they found a drunk person with a gun, the City Council last week made it illegal to handle a gun negligently while intoxicated.
The new ordinance, which mirrors a 2010 Missouri law, gives police another option when they come across a negligent, armed drunk even if the case is too minor for a prosecutor to file state charges. Other cities have passed similar ordinances.
“The old city ordinance had not acknowledged the passage of the Missouri concealed carry ... and so the new ordinances contain some of the same languages as Missouri state law so that we have a consistency between the state law and the city ordinances,” said Police Chief Steven Beamer.
Beamer said the city needed the new ordinance because on occasion in recent years, North Kansas City police officers were called to homes where someone who appeared to be drunk had a firearm. Sometimes the situation seemed too minor to ask a prosecutor to file a state felony charge.
Now police can issue citations in those more minor cases and send the matter to municipal court as misdemeanors, which authorities say is sometimes more appropriate than filing state felony charges.
“There is a state stature prohibiting stealing, and not every stealing may end up being filed on by the county prosecutor,” Beamer said. “So this allows cases to be moved into municipal court where there is a violation of the law and the county prosecutor has chosen not to file charges on it for some reason.”
Clay County Prosecutor Daniel L. White said his office frequently files criminal charges in cases forwarded by local police departments.
Last year, White said his office filed felony charges in both cases of unlawful use of a weapon while drunk that were submitted by North Kansas City officers. In 2012, criminal charges were filed in one North Kansas City case that was submitted. Criminal charges were filed in the two cases filed in 2011, White said.
White said his office has filed charges in 70 out of the 81 cases police brought against people who illegally possessed a firearm while intoxicated since 2010.
Passage of the state law in 2010 caused some confusion, White wrote in a letter to North Kansas City Mayor Don Stielow, because under a previous law it was illegal for an intoxicated to have a weapon even if it wasn’t being handled negligently.
“No wiggle room,” he said. “If you were drunk and had a gun, you faced a Class D felony of unlawful use of a weapon.”
One of the cases where prosecutors used the new law was in the case of Joshua W. Bailey, who pleaded guilty last June in Platte County Circuit Court to involuntary manslaughter, being a felon in possession of a weapon, unlawfully discharging a firearm while intoxicated and armed criminal action.
Bailey was sentenced to 15 years in prison for accidentally shooting and killing Joshua Anderson during a marijuana-fueled Super Bowl party last February. Authorities said Bailey held a party at his Riverside apartment, where he consumed at least four shots of tequila and smoked marijuana.
Bailey accidentally shot Anderson while showing his guests a Jimenez 9 mm semi-automatic handgun.
In Platte County, Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said his office has filed criminal charges in four cases of persons accused of being intoxicated and in possession of a deadly firearm since 2010.
“Alcohol and guns do not mix,” Zahnd said. “Joshua Bailey’s case reveals why we take these cases so seriously. At a Super Bowl party last year, Bailey accidentally shot and killed a friend while he was drunk and high. One young man is dead, and Bailey is serving a long prison term.”
Beamer said in recent years the North Kansas City council has amended other municipal ordinances to mirror modifications in several state laws.