Editorials

Missouri lawmakers take cover after shooting of 8-year-old in KC: ‘Gun laws don’t work’

‘The first thing they would say is that he had a great smile’

Stacy King of the Center School District recalls Brian Bartlett, 8, who was killed Saturday night when 30 bullets were fired into his mother’s home as he slept.
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Stacy King of the Center School District recalls Brian Bartlett, 8, who was killed Saturday night when 30 bullets were fired into his mother’s home as he slept.

The death of 8-year-old Brian Bartlett at the hands of unknown gunmen shocked Kansas City for the sheer senselessness of the crime.

It’s been just over a week since the home Brian shared with his mother on Tracy Avenue was sprayed with nearly 30 rounds fired from high-powered weapons. Only weeks away from his ninth birthday, the soon-to-be-fourth-grade student at Center Elementary School was struck by gunfire as he lay in bed.

The body count in Kansas City continues to rise amid a string of eight homicides and 13 nonfatal shootings in a single week. Brian was the city’s 90th homicide victim of the year and its youngest.

But Missouri’s gun-loving lawmakers are unmoved by this bloodbath. That the fatal shooting of a sleeping child is not a call to action should concern us all.

“I disagree that more gun laws are the proper way to reduce violence,” Republican state Rep. Tony Lovasco of suburban Saint Charles County wrote in response to Brian’s death.

“Gun laws don’t work,” said anti-gun law advocate and state Rep. Dottie Bailey, a Republican from rural Eureka, Missouri.

Actually, it’s Missouri’s lenient, anything-goes gun laws that don’t work.

Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield, Missouri, were among the nation’s 12 most dangerous cities in 2018.

“What does that say about our public policy in the state of Missouri?” Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith asked recently.

There’s no shortage of evidence that easy access to guns has contributed to spikes in violent crime. But lawmakers have just thrown up their hands, suggesting that in the absence of a perfect solution, the answer is to do nothing at all.

“It doesn’t matter what law we have on the books, if someone is intent on killing,” Bailey said. “No law, no judge, no court can stop him. But who it does hurt is the guy that follows the law.”

Of course, no single gun measure will stop the violence. But commonsense regulations that have proven effective in other states, including a red flag law, paired with an all-of-the-above approach that includes more resources for mental health treatment, would be an overdue step in the right direction.

To their credit, local leaders and law enforcement officials are seeking solutions, but the legislature has tied their hands. Although state law prevents cities from enacting more stringent gun regulations, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas has proposed making it a misdemeanor municipal offense for a minor to possess a gun or for anyone to transfer one to a minor without parental consent. The proposal will likely face legal scrutiny.

For those who argue that no gun regulation will have even a modest effect on violent crime, we ask: What will?

If the gun-rights crowd knows, they aren’t saying. Lawmakers have offered no actionable plans to address this growing public health crisis and appear determined to continue doing what’s not working.

“Just because something awful happens doesn’t mean we need a new law,” Lovasco said.

But how many awful things have to happen before we do need a new law?

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