John Sharp’s car became the target of a drive-by shooting earlier this month. Photo by Kathy Feist
South KC Perspective
Former City Councilman/Columnist Target of Gun Violence
By John Sharp
A total of 257 drive-by shootings in Kansas City, Mo., were reported by police in 2015 compared to 202 in 2014. That’s over 21 a month.
Many of these resulted in fatalities, sometimes of children and infants sleeping in their beds.
The impact of this wave of sometimes deadly violence was brought home to me in the wee hours of Thursday, September 1, when my residence was one of the targets of a drive-by.
In a burst of about eight quick shots from a .40 caliber pistol, a bullet tore through my garage door and hit the opposite wall, while another blew out the back window of my car parked in the driveway.
A bullet went through the roof of my next door neighbor’s car parked on the street, while another went through her son’s bedroom just a few feet from where he was sleeping.
Another neighbor’s security camera system shows the shooter hanging out the passenger door window firing over the top of the car at our homes, the muzzle flash of each shot clearly visible.
Since the other victim just moved to Kansas City recently from another state and hasn’t even been here long enough to make any enemies, I am almost positive I was the intended target, particularly since I was heavily involved in a successful campaign in the August 2nd primary election that became very bitter in its closing days.
In fact, I had to call 9-1-1 three times election day due to threats of physical violence against another poll worker helping the candidate I supported who was doing nothing confrontational. After I reported to the 9-1-1 call taker that the main instigator of these threats told me he had just gotten out of the penitentiary and was going home to get his gun and coming back to “settle this”, the police responded in force and stationed an officer at the polling location for the remainder of the day.
I’ve been involved in campaigns in Kansas City for almost 50 years. I’ve seen campaign workers passing out bottles of whiskey to voters as they left the polls, and I’ve seen (and stopped) a campaign worker standing inside a polling place telling people who to vote for, but I have never personally witnessed this level of violent intimidation.
What can we do to decrease these kinds of violence?
Besides trying to ratchet down the increasingly toxic atmosphere of our political campaigns which encourages violence by hot-headed individuals, Missourians need to seriously look at how our gun laws contribute to acts of deadly violence.
For instance, Missouri has a law which allows law-abiding citizens to purchase permits to carry concealed weapons after passing a background check and a short course on firearm safety and the legal aspects of firearm use, including a live fire exercise at a shooting range. As a result of these safeguards, only a tiny fraction of concealed carry permit holders have ever been charged with violent crimes involving a gun.
But the law has a serious loophole. It allows persons to carry loaded concealed weapons within their easy reach in the passenger compartments of their vehicles without a permit, without a background check and without any training.
So if the police had stopped the assailants in my case for a traffic violation a few minutes before the drive-by and discovered a loaded concealed gun in their car and even if neither one had a concealed carry permit, the police would have had to let them go on their way.
Instead of closing this loophole that clearly is a factor in the number of drive-by shootings plaguing our city, the Missouri General Assembly this year passed a bill (Senate Bill 656) that allows non-felons (19 and older or 18 and older if in the military) to carry loaded concealed weapons on their person (not just in their vehicle) without a permit, background check or training.
That bill also enacts so-called “stand your ground” legislation that legalizes the use of deadly force by people who feel they or others are threatened in public with no duty to try to withdraw from the situation if possible.
Although Governor Jay Nixon wisely vetoed this bill, an attempt to override his veto (which requires a two-thirds majority of all members in both the House and Senate) is expected to be made in the September 14 veto session.
The South Kansas City Alliance and numerous city and law enforcement officials are urging legislators to sustain the governor’s veto, but the National Rifle Association (NRA) is mounting a heavy advertising campaign urging a veto override. (I have been an NRA life member for many decades, but I disagree with the organization on this issue. With rights come responsibilities.)
Persons concerned about this issue, regardless of their viewpoint, should contact their state representative and senator BEFORE THE September 14 session.
Woods of Somerset
Construction has started on a spec home in the long-delayed Woods of Somerset subdivision on the east side of Wornall Road at 122nd St., and construction on another is expected to start soon.
A total of 36 homes are planned including 25 single family homes south of 122nd St. and 11 villa homes that will include mowing and snow removal service on the north side of the street.
The development is advertising lots starting in the $80,000 plus range and homes starting in the upper $300,000 plus range. One available lot on the north side of 122nd St. immediately adjacent to Wornall Road is advertised at $69.950.
Comerio Corporation and LDH Construction are the two builders currently involved in the project, according to Michael Perry of Weichert Realtors, who said additional grading of more lots to make them easier to build on will take place after more of the currently available lots are sold. He said two lots besides the two spec home lots have been sold to date.
Red Bridge Area Plan
The second of three planned public meetings to get citizens’ feedback on a new long range plan for the Red Bridge area will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, September 8, at Center High School, 8715 Holmes Road.
The boundaries of the area covered by the plan run from Blue Ridge Blvd. and the northern city limits of Grandview on the south to 85th St. and the trolley track trail right-of-way on the north, and from State Line Rd. on the west to 71 Highway/I-49 and the western city limits of Grandview on the east.
The plan will serve as a guide for future land use, commercial and residential development, and zoning, as well as providing a “to do” list for needed pubic infrastructure in the area such as street improvements. It will replace the outdated South Development Area Plan adopted in 1970 that covers the vast majority of the area.
Thursday’s meeting will solicit feedback on preliminary land use recommendations developed after the first public meeting on June 22.
A final public meeting is planned for October, and city staff hopes to be able to submit the plan to the City Plan Commission and the City Council for approval before the end of the year.
How City Hall Works
Residents can learn how city government works so they can be more effective advocates for their neighborhoods or for their specific concerns by signing up to attend Community Engagement University.
This free 8-week program for city residents 18 and older begins from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13, and runs for seven additional Tuesdays at the same time at City Hall, 414 E. 12th Street.
The sessions are designed to give participants basic knowledge about all the city’s key functions and operations. Sessions are titled Local Government 101, We Keep this City Clean, We Keep this City Safe, Dollars & Sense, We Keep this City Healthy & Active, We Build & Improve this City, and We Are in your Neighborhood (parts 1 & 2).
Residents must register to participate at kcmo.gov/ceu or 816-513-1313. If classes are full, persons are urged to complete the registration process so they can be added to a waiting list.
City Priorities Input
The city again is seeking residents’ input on their top priorities and objectives to help guide City Council deliberations on the next fiscal year’s budget and the city’s 5-year business plan.
The south Kansas City work session to obtain citizen input will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, September 22, at Avila University’s Whitfield Conference Center, 11901 Wornall Road.
Unlike past sessions, this one will skip formal staff presentations to focus on residents’ suggestions. A new feature will be a “Pick Your Priorities” game that will let participants have fun picking the best ways to spend city tax revenue.
“These forums are designed to focus on high-level prioritizing, rather than line-item debates,” said Mayor Pro Tem & Finance Committee Chair Scott Wagner.
The workshop also will include focus groups on subjects such as finance, housing, public safety and transportation; direct access to department directors, assistant city managers and other city staff; and an opportunity for residents to record a 30-second message to the City Council about their top priorities.
Residents are requested to RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-513-1173 since space is limited.
The competition, sponsored by the Martin City Community Improvement District, will run through Thursday, September 15th. Donated items can be dropped off at the dealerships any day of the week, and donors will be entered in a gift card drawing.
SEPTEMBER 9, 7:30 a.m. – Citizens work sessions on the upcoming city budget, the October 8 South Kansas City Alliance Economic Development Summit and the Children’s Services Fund Initiative (a proposed one-eighth cent county sales tax to fund services for at-risk youth that will be on the November ballot) will be discussed at the Second Friday meeting hosted by City Councilmen Kevin McManus and Scott Taylor at the Trailside Center, 9901 Holmes. Persons may also make appointments for free evaluations of whether their downspouts or sump pumps are improperly connected to the city sewer system. Light refreshments will be served.
SEPTEMBER 18, 7 a.m. – Same day registration opens for the 26th annual “Strutt With Your Mutt” 5K run and 3K walk to benefit Wayside Waifs at 63rd & Brookside Plaza. The 5K race without dogs begins at 8 a.m., followed by the 5K race with dogs at 8:30 and the 3K walk at 9. Adult race registration is $40, and adult walk registration is $35. Persons may register online until 5 p.m. September 16 at WaysideWaifs.org/strut.