South KC Perspective
By John Sharp
Pleas by community and faith leaders, elected officials and police to not engage in celebratory gunfire appeared to have had some effect this New Year’s holiday since 911 calls about shots fired in KCMO the evening of New Year’s Eve and the early morning of New Year’s Day were down from 303 last year to 259.
The police department’s ShotSpotter system which covers some parts of the city detected 174 incidents of shots being fired during the same time period totaling 1,162 rounds which was down from 239 incidents totaling 1,623 rounds the same time a year ago. ShotSpotter utilizes acoustic sensors to detect shots being fired and the location of the shooting.
Police note that persons should understand that 911 calls and ShotSpotter activations only represent a relatively small percentage of the number of incidents of celebratory and indiscriminate gunfire. The ShotSpotter system only covers part of the city, and many persons don’t bother to call 911 about shots fired unless it is happening close to them. Police say only about 30 percent of ShotSpotter activations, for example, also are called in by neighboring residents.
In Grandview, Police Chief Charles Iseman reported that complaints about celebratory gunfire were up during this holiday despite his department distributing flyers at major apartment complexes in that city urging people not to engage in celebratory gunfire and posting that message on social media.
While fortunately nobody was killed in Kansas City this holiday by such dangerous and irresponsible behavior, police said two victims who reported being hit by celebratory gunfire were taken to the hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.
One injury occurred on East 73rd Street and another occurred at an apartment complex near I-49 close to the city’s southern border. No such injuries were reported by police in Grandview.
Property damage from celebratory or indiscriminate gunfire during the holiday hours was reported by police in both cities.
KCMO police said they received 11 reports of property damage from celebratory or indiscriminate gunfire, and Grandview police said they received reports of four residences being hit by bullets and found over 30 shell casings near one of the residences.
This relatively small number of incidents of property damage is probably highly misleading, however, since the roofs of some commercial buildings and residences likely were struck by bullets when nobody was there which won’t be noticed until roof leaks occur when rooftop snow melts or during future rains.
To stiffen the penalties for celebratory and indiscriminate gunfire in cities to hopefully deter more of this dangerous behavior which now is only punished as a municipal ordinance violation unless it results in death or injury or there are other specified aggravating circumstances, legislation has been introduced again this year in the Missouri General Assembly to make this a serious state offense.
Bills to pass Blair’s Law making any unjustified discharge of firearms with criminal negligence within or into city limits a state offense include House Bill 1568 introduced by my son Representative Mark Sharp of Kansas City, House Bill 1865 by Representative Rory Rowland of Independence and House Bill 1915 by Representative Nick Schroer of O’Fallon in St. Charles County.
They are named after 11-year-old Blair Shanahan Lane who died after being struck by celebratory gunfire here on July 4, 2011.
Last year Sharp added this legislation by amendment to another bill that passed the House overwhelmingly and was recommended for passage without dissent by a Senate committee, but the legislative session adjourned before it could be considered by the full Senate.
Passage of Blair’s Law is a recommended top state legislative priority of the Joint Government Affairs Committee of the Grandview and South Kansas City Chambers of Commerce. Its passage also is supported by the City of KCMO and the Kansas City Police Department.