Ahead of New Years Eve, Kansas City Police Department invited the mother of a child killed by celebratory gunfire to share her story.
“Today I just want to talk a little bit about celebratory gunfire and the dangers of it, and how important it is for us not to celebrate the incoming new year with celebratory gunfire,” Police Chief Stacey Graves said. “Simple message, what goes up must come down… Those bullets come down, they can hurt people, property, even pets. And we just urge everyone that that’s not a safe way to celebrate.”
Graves reminded Kansas Citians that shooting guns off in the city limits is illegal.
“It’s a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000 plus up to a year jail,” Graves said. “It’s just not worth it. If you see someone shooting a gun off this week or see someone bringing a gun out to ring in the new year, please, please ask them to put the gun away.”
Graves said the department and elected officials will share this message every year until it is no longer necessary.
“We had 174 ShotSpotter incidents and that resulted in 1,162 rounds shot off in the areas that we have ShotSpotter,” Graves said. “We had 259 calls for service on sounds of shots citywide. That’s 259 people who actually did call police.”
If you hear shots in your neighborhood and you don’t call police, they can’t know to respond, Graves said.
“We don’t know that that’s happening in the area, and while we have ShotSpotter so we can triangulate where those shots came from, we don’t know who’s shooting and we don’t know what vehicle they’re in,” Graves said. “So we we ask for your cooperation on that.”
Last year, 207 of the calls for service involving shots fired for Central Patrol, Metro Patrol and East Patrol, Graves said.
“We just urge everyone in Kansas City to ring in the New Year safe and let’s start off 2023 in a safe way and start working together for the betterment, safety and success of Kansas City,” she concluded.
Mayor Quinton Lucas thanked Chief Graves for addressing a number of serious issues in her first few weeks on the job.
“Nothing is more important than keeping our communities safe,” Lucas said. “As somebody who grew up in Kansas City, who spent most New Year’s Eves sleeping on the floor because there was gunfire in my neighborhood — and a whole bunch of people know that — we want to see people make a change in how they celebrate and, frankly, calling out those who are being irresponsible.”
Lucas urged those who think it’s safe to fire into the air to reconsider, as people have been injured or killed.
“We’re putting pressure on lots of folks in our city to take that extra step to make sure that we don’t just keep hearing the same types of allegedly celebratory gunfire,” Lucas said. “Please do call 911 to make sure that we’re able to track what’s going on in communities. Every part of Kansas City should be safe.”
Lucas said although some may hear it every year or all night long, they should still call police.
“We can make sure that it stops, and it starts with us making sure people put the guns down on New Year’s Eve,” Lucas said. “Think about the negative impact we get each year from this, and it’s very simply that we know this year has not been as safe in Kansas City, last year was not as safe, no year in the recent past has been as safe as we wish it to be.”
Part of why the Board of Police Commissioners selected chief Graves is because she is someone who is spending every hour meeting with members of our community to make sure our community stays safe, Lucas said.
It’s been 11 years, five months and 24 days since Michele Shanahan-DeMoss lost her daughter, 11-year-old Blair Shanahan Lane, to celebratory gunfire on Independence Day.
“It’s irresponsible and reckless,” Shanahan-DeMoss said. “A gun is not a toy, and absolutely, if you see somebody ever have a gun out at a party or where there’s children or anything, it’s not a game. There are so many fun things to do. Encourage people to do those, but if just one person had called 911 the night of July 4 ,2011, my daughter may have still been here… A bullet, once it leaves a gun, doesn’t have a specific name on it. That traveled a long way to take her life.”
Missouri Representative Mark Sharp is sponsoring Blair’s Law in Jefferson City for the third session in a row. The bill has not successfully passed both chambers, but he’s hopeful.
“I do believe this year will be the year that it is passed,” Sharp said. “Last year, redistricting and other issues got in the way of us completing bills that should have been passed already.”
Blair’s Law will create the state offense for discharging a firearm within city limits, making it a felony charge for doing so.
“We are urging everyone this New Year’s Eve to please be mindful,” Sharp said. “If you do know somebody who may consider doing it, please kindly urge them not to. As has been said before, people die from this. You’re scaring people in your neighborhoods and it’s impacting the business community in a very bad way. We have a lot of great things coming to the city in the very near future. We have to do everything that we can to make sure that we are protecting our neighborhoods and to make sure that we are putting Kansas City in the spotlight for good reasons and not for the bad ones.”
Eleven years ago when Shanahan Lane was killed, Graves was working in Public Information for the department.
“As a mother, I can’t imagine the pain that that has caused,” Graves said. “Celebratory gunfire took a young life and that will always be a memory of mine. Just the fact that we have a lot of gun violence here in Kansas City, but also celebratory gunfire, there are consequences for that. People are hurt. We have damaged property. But in addition to that, it’s preventable. It’s preventable. That didn’t have to happen. That’s what I remember most about that.”
Providing a location is enough for dispatchers, but it would be helpful if police knew who was firing the gun, a vehicle description if relevant, and how many shots.
“If you have shots fired, and if you’re not calling police, are you accepting that that’s happening in your neighborhood? You know, if someone is firing a weapon in your neighborhood, you should be calling 911,” Graves said. “At least get us in the area. If you can’t see who’s doing that ,we might be able to get into area and see exactly who’s firing gun and make that area safe. Even sometimes our presence might process might deter someone from doing that.”
Graves said a bullet can travel much further than the eye can see, and in dense neighborhoods, there’s endless possibility for what a stray bullet could hit.
Shanahan-DeMoss said her daughter’s death was the worst thing has happened to her.
“She didn’t get a chance to do so many things,” Shanahan-DeMoss said. “You bring a beautiful human being into the world to have stupidity take her life. I will keep talking and telling — and I’m sure that I hit a line of frustration — but I also know that there’s something bigger than me, pushing me to keep going, to show the message and I’m beyond thankful for the people that keep showing up.”