Kansas City Mayor Sly James returned Tuesday to the 44th Street and Montgall Avenue block where he grew up to urge the Missouri legislature not to override the governor’s veto of open carry gun legislation.
James recalled his old block as a wonderful place where neighbors knew and looked after one another. He said urban core neighborhoods need to be restored to be as safe and family-centered as the suburbs, and taking guns off the streets is a big part of that.
He argued that Senate Bill 656, which prohibits cities from banning open carry for gun permit holders, is going in the wrong direction.
“This bill is dangerous,” James said at a news conference, flanked by Police Chief Darryl Forté, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Steve Green, teachers, moms, grandmothers and some neighbors with whom James grew up.
“Guns are more readily available in this neighborhood than fresh food.”
The Missouri General Assembly passed SB 656 in the last session. It prohibits cities from banning open carry, and it reduces the minimum age required to get a concealed-carry permit from 21 to 19. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill earlier this summer, and on July 31, the Kansas City Council voted 9-0 to ban open carry within the city limits.
James and others spoke Tuesday as legislators prepare for a veto override session beginning Wednesday. Political observers predict the legislature has enough votes to override Nixon’s veto, which would undermine Kansas City’s new law.
Forté acknowledged that the city may be fighting a losing cause, but he applauded the mayor and others who “didn’t give up” and who still hope to persuade the legislature to sustain the veto.
Baker argued the bill jeopardizes the safety of law enforcement officers and said the city needs to have the authority to adopt its own common-sense gun laws.
But even some local legislators say they will vote to override the veto.
Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Kansas City Republican who is often an ally of Mayor James’, said the bill is misunderstood.
“From the perspective of people I’ve talked to, this is not about protecting the guy strapping a gun on his hip and walking around like Wyatt Earp,” he said. “If someone carrying a concealed firearm brushes their jacket back and a gun is exposed, they run the risk of violating the law in some parts of the state, even by mistake. This is designed to protect those people.”
Silvey said he’d seen no empirical data that demonstrates the harm in open carry. “In states that allow open carry,” he said, “things haven’t devolved into the Wild West.”