“Dangerous” was the word many residents used Thursday to describe the practice of firing guns into the air to commemorate Independence Day.
Megan and Jake Randall were shell-shocked by the practice about six months ago.
The couple — and their two small children, ages 3 and 2 — spent their first New Year’s Eve in their new home near 45th Street and the Paseo in Kansas City last year.
They were in for what Jake Randall termed a culture shock.
Celebratory gunshots rang out all around the Randalls’ home in the city’s urban core. It was unlike anything the former Westport residents had ever experienced.
“It really is a culture of celebratory gunfire,” Jake Randall said. “It was a fear. We feel very safe here, but that one time we felt unsafe. We didn’t know what to do. It’s scary hearing gunshots.”
Gunshots are expected this July Fourth. However, Kansas City police hope to reduce the practice.
Kansas City police officers were joined by the parents of a young girl killed by celebratory gunfire in 2011 and other community activists in canvassing the area to remind residents that celebratory gunfire is dangerous — and illegal.
Thanks to that effort, the Randall family now has a better handle on how to proceed.
“That’s how you grow,” Randall said. “That’s how you learn. You have to hear the stories, and you have to be aware. You don’t know what you don’t know.”
Officers were accompanied by Brian Demoss and Michele Shanahan-Demoss, parents of Blair Shanahan Lane. They shared how 11-year-old Blair was hit by a stray bullet July 4, 2011. She died the next day.
“It makes it personal,” Megan Randall said. “It makes it a real story. Instead of, ‘This could happen,’ it did happen.”
Chris Harris, a community leader at Harris Park near 40th Street and Wayne, said some people in the area believe gunfire is a fun way to celebrate Independence Day.
“It’s just not for fun,” he said. “Serious things can happen.”
A resident who didn’t want to be identified said he heard plenty of gunfire in the area last year. The man, a gun owner, said he also remembers Blair’s death in 2011. It left an indelible impression, the man said.
“I’m scared to shoot mine off,” he said. “It’s dangerous.”
Kansas City Police Sgt. Jacob Becchina said officers chose the area based on ShotSpotter information from last Fourth of July. They plan to canvass different areas Friday.