Government & Politics

Lucas bill would curb violence by barring domestic abusers from possessing firearms

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas on Wednesday proposed an ordinance intended to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers, his latest in a series of proposals to curb gun violence.

The ordinance, which will be formally introduced to the City Council on Thursday, draws on existing federal law to make it illegal on the municipal level for those with a history of domestic violence to carry concealed firearms.

“No one who resorts to violence in a romantic relationship or otherwise should be able to carry a gun,” Lucas said during a press conference at the Rose Brooks Center, a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

Under the ordinance, those convicted on a misdemeanor or felony charge of domestic violence would be barred from carrying a concealed weapon. The rule would also apply to those with restraining orders issued against them.

“This does expand the possible universe of folks who are banned from carrying firearms, so I think it’s actually a very creative piece of legislation,” Lucas said.

Lucas and his staff drafted the ordinance in collaboration with Rose Brooks and believe it will stand up despite the state of Missouri’s tight restrictions on municipal gun ordinances. But a criminal defense attorney cast doubt on its legality.

If the ordinance passes, those who violate it could be punished with a municipal code violation, which carries a maximum penalty of $500 and six months in jail.

Annie Struby, a victim advocate at the center, said more than half of the most dangerous domestic abusers in Kansas City have access to firearms. Nationally, she said, 54 percent of mass shootings are connected to domestic violence situations. Over her 18 years at Rose Brooks, Struby said, she has seen guns play an ever-increasing role in violence against domestic partners.

“Just the presence of a weapon in an an abusive home makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed by her abuser, and even when firearms are not fatal, they play such a dangerous role in domestic violence,” she said.

Lucas said the rule allows local police and prosecutors to seize guns from abusers and prosecute them when federal officials may not.

John Gromowsky, a criminal defense attorney in who said he primarily deals in federal law, said if the ordinance is allowed to go into effect, that extra layer of law could help. But he has his doubts about the ordinance’s legal footing.

Missouri cities are barred by state law from drafting their own gun restrictions. But there is an exception to that prohibition that Lucas hopes to exploit.

Missouri says cities can craft their own gun laws if they conform exactly to sections of the state law that say firearms are forbidden any place where they are also barred by federal statute.

Lucas wants to tie his ordinance to the provision in federal gun law that prohibits domestic violence offenders from possessing firearms.

“They’re using that to try to make a hook into the federal statutes that says, ‘because you said federal law, we’re allowed to adopt any federal gun statutes we want to as a city ordinance,’ which is what they’ve done,” Gromowsky said, “and it’s not appropriate.”

Lucas disagreed with that analysis and said numerous attorneys with the city and policy experts at Rose Brooks worked on the proposal.

“I think there is a wide body of legal analysis that suggests this is wholly legal. It is completely appropriate,” Lucas said. “...and it’s my view that frankly, it’s creative wordsmithing, but it is fully within both the letter and spirit of federal law.”

Efforts to roll back gun violence has been an early focus of Lucas’ administration. In his first month in office, he introduced and shepherded to passage two ordinances he said will help keep guns out of the hands of minors.

Both relied on state and federal statutes to make possession of handguns by minors and reckless transfer of a handgun to a minor illegal under municipal law.

Kansas City has one of the worst homicide rates of any major metropolitan area. Lucas, in his August inaugural address, set a goal to get the city “off the FBI top 10 most dangerous cities list.”

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Allison Kite reports on City Hall and local politics for The Star. She joined the paper in February 2018 and covered Midterm election races on both sides of the state line. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with minors in economics and public policy from the University of Kansas.