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‘Never again, again.’ Kansas City rallies for gun safety laws in Missouri and Kansas

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
About 100 people gathered on Saturday for Kansas City's March For Our Lives Rally in Gillham Park.

Following a recent wave of mass shootings and gun violence, people at a March for Our Lives rally called for a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks, and red flag laws.

Meredith Bills and her friend, Joni Hall, found it hard to believe that they had to use the same old signs again on Saturday to help a crowd call for gun safety laws in response to yet another wave of mass shootings.

Bills and Hall were marching buddies at the March For Our Lives rally in 2018, which was organized after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. This time, Bills and Hall were using their old signs they made for the rally created in response to the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas.

“We’re doing ‘Never again,’ again,” Bills said. “We’re heartbroken humans, is what we are, and we’re sick of acting like there’s nothing we can do.”

About 100 people gathered under shade trees in Gillham Park on a day where temperatures reached into the 90s. They held signs reading, “Enough is enough,” or “Protect kids not guns.” Saturday’s March For Our Lives rally in Kansas City was one of hundreds nationwide, the largest held in Washington D.C.

Hall, a Missouri resident, said she was ashamed by the state’s gun laws.

Rondine Taylor tells the story of her son, Jeremiah, who lost his life to gun violence in Kansas City in 2018. Jeremiah was only 16. Taylor says there are way too many murders in Kansas City to be quiet.

“We’re protecting the guns, not the people,” said Hall. “I want strict background checks, and waiting periods, and there is no reason why a citizen should own a semi-automatic weapon, period. No reason.”

Missouri has some of the weakest gun laws in the nation. In a 2021 gun law scorecard, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, ranked Missouri 47th in the country for the strength of its gun laws. Last summer, Gov. Mike Parson signed the Second Amendment Protection Act, or SAPA, into law. The measure bars police from enforcing federal gun laws and allows private citizens to sue local or state officials for up to $50,000 if they believe their Second Amendment rights have been violated.

In February of this year, the U.S. Department of Justice sued Missouri, saying SAPA is unconstitutional and causing ‘significant harm’ to law enforcement and public safety. In a separate lawsuit filed in Cole County, Jackson County, St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis, officials are trying to block the law. In August 2021, Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green declined to block the law, so challengers appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court. In April, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that St. Louis and Jackson County can argue whether or not SAPA is legal, but they have to do so in front of a Cole County judge first.

Amy Axtell, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action, said she is concerned that if SAPA is not struck down, Missouri citizens, especially domestic violence survivors, are in danger.

“What SAPA does is basically allows domestic abusers to keep their weapons,” Axtell said, adding that the law that covers guns and domestic violence is a federal statute.

“If federal law can't be enforced, then we are supposed to go to state law and Missouri doesn't have that state law,” she said.

Axtell joined others Saturday in calling for a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks, and red flag laws in Missouri.

“We need so much here in Missouri. It would help if we just had some common sense gun laws, some really basic stuff,” she said. “If we had a law for safe storage, it would help decrease suicide. It would help keep guns out of the hands of curious children.”

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
Mayor Quinton Lucas addresses the crowd at Kansas City's March For Our Lives rally Saturday.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas criticized lax gun laws in Missouri and Kansas and told people to call U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas to demand they do something. Lucas said gun laws in Missouri have regressed since the early 2000s.

“What they [Missouri lawmakers] have done instead is to say, not only will we have no permitting, no requirements, no rules, not only will we tie the hands of our police officers behind their backs, but more than anything, I feel like in Missouri these days, if you cross the state line, they say, ‘Welcome. Here's an AR-15. Good luck.’”

“The reason we have so many gun homicides in our city, gun shootings in our city and gun massacres in our country is because it's too easy to get too many guns in our country,” Lucas said.

Correction: The city where a mass shooting took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 was incorrect in an earlier version of this story. It's Parkland, Florida.

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga is a freelance reporter for KCUR 89.3.
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