Editorials

After First Friday shooting, can Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas reduce the bloodshed?

‘This would not be the Kansas City we want to live in,’ Mayor Quinton Lucas speaks about shootings

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas spoke about two homicides on his first two full days in office. Jackson County prosecutors filed charges against an 18-year-old accused of killing Erin Langhofer at a First Fridays event.
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Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas spoke about two homicides on his first two full days in office. Jackson County prosecutors filed charges against an 18-year-old accused of killing Erin Langhofer at a First Fridays event.

Several tragic murders, including the shooting death of 25-year-old Erin Langhofer at the First Friday festival, have stunned the community that Mayor Quinton Lucas has governed for less than a week.

On Monday, Lucas outlined a series of proposals to reduce the bloodshed. They include launching a gun buyback program by the end of the year.

“It is too easy for people, I think, to get firearms very quickly, particularly in the urban core,” he said.

There are many reasons for Kansas City’s carnage, but the unending supply of weapons clearly plays a major role. It’s simply too easy for anyone to get their hands on a gun.

A gun buyback program — you turn in a weapon and get cash, no questions asked — wouldn’t solve that problem overnight. But it would be an important step toward an all-of-the-above approach to reduce gun violence.

And it could prevent a murder. It’s worth pursuing for that reason alone.

Naturally, rabid pro-gun advocates in Jefferson City have made holding gun buybacks difficult. Incredibly, cities and counties sponsoring buybacks must first offer the firearms for sale or trade to licensed gun dealers before the weapons can be destroyed.

That means guns obtained through a buyback could end up back on the street. Sometimes, you just shake your head.

Regardless, the law may force Kansas City to seek a private sponsor for a gun buyback. That’s what St. Louis did with its buyback effort in 2017.

It’s similar to what Kansas City did in 1994. Then-Mayor Emanuel Cleaver and others promoted a buyback, but it was organized by the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The buyback brought in 1,900 weapons, including automatic pistols, several assault rifles and a handful of sawed-off shotguns. They were logged by police, then melted.

It cost about $50,000. “Frankly, if I got on the phone today, I could call enough foundations who would support such a thing,” Lucas said.

He should make those calls as soon as possible.

But buybacks alone won’t be enough. That’s why it’s also essential that police and prosecutors fully investigate how the teenager charged in the First Friday murder got the 9mm gun allegedly used to kill Langhofer, an innocent bystander.

Missouri law prohibits the “reckless” sale or transfer of a firearm to anyone under 18 without permission from a parent or guardian. The First Friday suspect, Deon’te Copkney, turned 18 this year.

Was he 18 when he got the gun? Who sold the weapon or gave it to him? Did a parent or guardian know? If federal or state laws were broken in the transaction, the gun’s provider must be arrested and prosecuted.

In fact, full investigation of the weapons transactions in every local murder is essential. Sending criminal gun dealers to prison would affect the supply of murder weapons on Kansas City’s streets, too.

We must try everything we can to end the slaughter. Swift prosecution of illegal gun sales and a gun buyback program are two important steps in that effort.

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