Next Monday, Dec. 28, was to be Kansas City’s day to discuss murder.
At least, that is the day the Jackson County prosecutor’s office, the mayor and Kansas City police set aside for an afternoon press conference about the city’s homicides.
But murderers, unhinged people with grudges to bear and easy access to guns, don’t wait for press conferences. So here we are, a few days from Christmas with more families getting ready to bury homicide victims — the city’s 106th this year got racked up over the weekend.
In addition, Kansas City’s gun violence earned a national headline: “In Missouri, Fewer Gun Restrictions and More Gun Killings.”
Never miss a local story.
The New York Times published the article on Monday. The piece offers nothing new. Local media, including this newspaper, have written extensively about how legislative actions to loosen gun laws can impact urban crime. But now Missouri gets to be a poster state for the issue.
The article detailed changes in recent years that loosened state laws on background checks and purchase permits, lowered the age for concealed carry to 19 and made gun ownership an inalienable right.
Legislators have also lessened law enforcement’s ability to take guns off the streets by making it legal to carry a gun in a car without a permit. Maybe that’s fine if you’re the hunter heading to the deer blind or the enthusiast going to the shooting range; but the change also gave that right to thugs roaming Kansas City.
The Times article opened with Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker perusing Facebook posts of young black men mugging with their guns. The photos are sad proof of people’s screwed up priorities.
Or, as Baker put it: “This is our reality. I’m not talking about my uncle who still lives on a farm in central Missouri and uses a gun for hunting.”
Mayor Sly James likened Kansas City’s killing rate to a “slow-motion mass murder.”
He’s so right. The city’s murder count grows incrementally and because it is so common, so the norm; it doesn’t really register to many people. It’s not their reality, so it’s not their concern.
James took on that disconnect, the one between what legislators do in Jefferson City and residents elsewhere in the state. “I’m tired of the fact that we have disproportionate numbers of African-Americans who are dying,” James told The Times. “Legislators, who are predominantly white, seem to ignore the racial implications of the laws they make.”
Although firm, James is being politely diplomatic.
Politicians who are supportive of increasingly relaxed gun laws are not living in the communities where the dying is happening. They do not have to care because they don’t know any of the people being killed, or their families.
Put another way, the white legislators do not care that black men in Kansas City and St. Louis (more than 180 homicides this year) can kill easier because of the laws passed in Jefferson City.
They do not value black lives. They value white, rural voters. The proof is in their stonewalling.
James has long been among the people, including prosecutors and police, who have begged legislators to be more mindful of these unintended outcomes.
But they don’t want to accept that making it easier for law-abiding citizens to obtain a firearm can also make it easier for those with criminal intent.
And no, this doesn’t mean that these politicians are responsible for the deaths. It takes a demented mind to pick up a gun, aim it at another human and pull the trigger. But the legislators are contributing to the likelihood this will happen.
So the countdown to the end of the year is on. Only thing that will change by next week: The death count by gunfire will surely rise.