To stem the toll homicides are taking on Kansas City, Mayor Sly James wants to regulate guns like vehicles in Missouri. And Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith says the public could help solve some murder cases if residents cooperated with law enforcement.
Both arguments are intriguing. But it’s going to take much more than appealing talking points and frustrated finger-pointing at state lawmakers to quell gun violence in the city.
At least 25 people were wounded by gunfire last week. Six of the shootings were fatal.
The city has recorded 75 homicides this year, following another fatal shooting Tuesday night. Response to the recurring bloodshed has been tepid at best, and few, if any, concrete plans have emerged.
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James and Smith sat at a press conference at City Hall earlier this week, lamenting the ineffective gun laws in Missouri.
Smith implored citizens to provide information about the shootings. But police are asking them to turn in their neighbors, friends or family members and potentially put themselves in danger. It’s difficult to foster a positive relationship with a segment of the population that has little trust in law enforcement.
In the end, though, the police chief and the mayor appeared to be at a loss to explain the rash of shootings or how to reduce them.
Would cracking down and zeroing in on known violent criminals work? The department already has targeted, or hot-spot policing policies in place.
What about prevention? Education programs in schools, social services, the Kansas City No Violence Alliance and other efforts have yielded mixed results.
Could increased patrols in problem areas help reduce crime? Putting more officers on the streets is only a small part of the solution.
There’s no doubt that James and Smith want nothing more than to curb the violence. But ultimately, their collective barking lacked bite during Monday’s press conference.
The mayor identified some of the issues he says fuel the violence: the absence of laws requiring licensing, training or background checks for those acquiring firearms; and no requirement for reporting stolen guns, among them.
James is right that we need more rational law gun laws. But legislators in Jefferson City have made abundantly clear that they’re not inclined to act on this issue.
As James said, there is no magic wand to wave. But residents want answers and plans of action.
Shawn McDaniel, a clinical psychologist based in Blue Springs, offered practical guidance for mounting a broad-based effort to reduce violent crime:
▪ Improve and expand school-based prevention efforts to address violence head-on with children as young as pre-school age.
▪ Increase access to mental health and substance use services by providing broader access to health care under Medicaid. Promoting integrated health care is also an option.
▪ Improve relationships between law enforcement and the communities affected most by violent crime.
▪ Put in place programs that will help people parent their children more effectively.
City leaders should make these efforts an urgent priority, McDaniel said.
“All of these things can be implemented now,” he said.
It bears repeating that it takes a community-wide effort to put a stop to gun violence. Despite a lot of hand-wringing and good intentions, Kansas City is still falling far short on this front.