Editorials

Three more murders in Kansas City — are Missouri leaders finally ready to tackle guns?

In the space of a few hours Wednesday, three more people died from gun violence in Kansas City.

The shootings, after a few weeks of relative peace, remind us that bloodshed still curses our community. The effort to reduce murders in Kansas City can never really end.

That’s why it’s encouraging to see at least some movement here and in Jefferson City to discuss a range of approaches to reducing gun violence. On Monday, an interim state Senate Committee on Public Safety held its first hearing to talk about ways out of the morass.

Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith was a witness. “We are responding to shootouts, where we have multiple people shooting each other,” he told state senators from both parties.

The committee reached no decisions. It’s expected to recommend measures aimed at curbing violence when lawmakers meet next January.

No one should expect the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature to suddenly embrace commonsense, statewide gun rules. But the fact that at least some Republicans are willing to listen — and consider different solutions for different places — is a start.

“They’ve recognized the need for us to do something,” Mayor Quinton Lucas told The Star Editorial Board. He called it “astonishing” that Republicans might now consider “responsible steps in gun legislation to make our city safer.”

Lucas applauded the state committee for not rejecting his modest efforts to change gun laws in Kansas City. Those proposals — clearly designed to test the limits for local autonomy on guns — should continue.

Other lawmakers are offering additional approaches. Some want tougher sentencing. Others suggest expanding mental health services. Still others, including Lucas, say more local police officers are needed.

All of these ideas will take money. Missouri legislators who truly want to curb gun violence will have to recognize that fact.

What Missouri cannot do is make the violence debate an either-or proposition. Legislators shouldn’t recommend more counseling instead of gun restrictions, for example, or additional cops in lieu of sentencing reform.

The appalling murder epidemic in Missouri’s urban areas can only be addressed with an all-of-the-above approach. That means more mental health services (and expanded Medicaid), more teaching, more police if needed and reasonable room for major cities to craft gun rules that will work.

Red flag laws, which can keep firearms out of the hands of people considered dangerous, are also an option.

The mayor said he wants fewer than 100 murders in Kansas City in 2020. It’s an aggressive goal. At this year’s pace, it would be a 33% drop in the murder rate.

Yet even 100 murders would mean roughly two killings per week. It should stun every Kansas Citian to realize two murders a week would represent significant progress.

Today, sadly, we average three killings per week. Three people were murdered here Wednesday, which makes this an average week, a horrible stain on our community that must be lifted.

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