Police urge citizens to cease Independence Day “celebratory” gunfire

By Corbin Smith, Editorial Assistant

Michele Shanahan DeMoss, whose 11-year-old daughter was killed by celebratory gunfire 10 years ago, please with Kansas Citians to stop the dangerous activity. Photo by Corbin Smith

On July 1, Mayor Quinton Lucas, State Rep. Mark Sharp (D-36) and Kansas Citian Shanahan DeMoss, and KCPD gathered on the steps of Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department Headquarters and addressed concerns related to “celebratory gunfire.” Celebratory gunfire is when someone goes to shoot their gun in the air in the same fashion as a firework to celebrate any occasion.

This act is dangerous because bullets fired in the air come back down, possibly striking someone or something that is unprotected. Sgt. Jake Becchina said the department has been fighting the issue for several years and urges citizens to stop this practice.

“We also want people to know that gunfire at all within the city limits is illegal,” Becchina said. “At a minimum, it is a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to a year in jail and $1,000 fine. That assumes that the bullet doesn’t return to Earth and hit anything or anyone — it goes up from there. All the way up to and including murder.”

Becchina also asked for citizens to join in urging their fellow community members not to shoot into the air during Fourth of July weekend. He wants people to have conversations about the safety risks before partaking in illegal firing.

“As you hear people talking about going to get their guns to celebrate the holiday, please have a conversation with them,” Becchina said. “ Tell them the real life consequences of what celebratory gunfire can do to a community, to a family, and to somebody’s life. That one bullet that doesn’t get fired could be the one that is somebody else’s life.”

Shanahan Lane would have been 21 and a half years old this Independence Day. Her mother explained that half birthdays were very important to Blair, and she made sure her mother knew it.

“There’s a choice to be made by the person that may pick up the gun — don’t fire it,” Shanahan DeMoss said. “I don’t want another mother, father or family to be seen anymore on TV. A life that could have been making a huge difference in our world. She could be getting married. Who knows what she’d be doing? The possibilities were stolen because of stupidity.”

For the last two years, KCPD has collected calls for service information from past 4th of July holidays. Using a window spanning from 6 p.m. July 3 to 6 a.m. July 5, 2019, KCPD received 46 alerts concerning illegal gunfire. The total number of rounds that were observed to be fired that year was 195 with the highest single round count in a single incident reported, being 18.

For the same window in 2020, the department received 31 alerts. However, 209 total rounds were observed, while the highest round count was 22.

Since the death of Shanahan Lane, legislation has been introduced and named “Blair’s Law” in order to help limit the amount of celebratory gunshots. This bill aims to make discharging a firearm within or into Kansas City a felony crime. Although this bill has not become law yet, Sharp is pushing for it to be passed soon.

“It has been my honor to follow this legislation, and I will continue to fight for this legislation to pass it from the Missouri House of Representatives,” Sharp said. “Last year, we were able to get this language as far as it’s ever gotten before. We passed it out of the general laws committee unanimously. We also passed it on the floor of the Missouri House unanimously. I believe we have a chance, going into the next regular session, to finally have this bill passed.”

Sharp said he understands first-hand what it’s like to hear gunshots in Kansas City during the holiday. He wants people to consider their neighbors and their safety before deciding to shoot a firearm into the air.

If any gunshots are heard during the holiday weekend, KCPD urges residents to call 911.

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