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Some Kansas City moms demand stricter gun policies after Texas elementary school shooting

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Jae C. Hong
Flowers and candles are placed outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Wednesday, May 25, 2022, to honor the victims killed in Tuesday's shooting at the school. Desperation turned to heart-wrenching sorrow for families of grade schoolers killed after an 18-year-old gunman barricaded himself in their Texas classroom and began shooting, killing several fourth-graders and their teachers.

The news out of Uvalde, Texas, is upsetting to everybody, but especially to the parents of school kids who are either still in the classroom or heading back in August.

This week’s shooting in Uvalde, Texas, marks the 27th school shooting this year alone. The massacre, which left 19 children and two adults dead has propelled Kansas Citians, once again, into discussions around gun control and school safety. For Kansas City area parents with kids still in classrooms, those conversations have taken heightened importance.

Jamie Young is event director for the Kansas City Mom Collective and a mother of three — 5, 9 and 11 years old. She said she heard about the shooting when she was getting ready for her daughter’s fifth grade graduation.

“What an American experience it kind of was — to shove that down and put on a smile. I think at the time the latest update was 12 were gone and I counted as the kids were up there, I counted how many 12 were,” Young told Up To Date’s Steve Kraske.

“Then, obviously, we know that it was more than that. It was very hard to kind of put on that brave face and then to read everything later after we got home.”

Young’s children go to school in the Olathe school district, and although schools have bullet-proof glass and other security measures in place, she wants to see stricter policies on guns — like universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods before buying a firearm.

“Our children are exposed to active shooter drills and things, and yet my thought is, we haven't taken any action to do things like common sense gun reform, red flag laws,” said Young. “We don't have a permit process, a licensing process, you know, only a federal background check, no time limits. We haven't done anything in that space. Why not? We've done the security here. We're beefing up police. It doesn't make sense.”

Some Kansas and Missouri officials have indicated they could support some milder gun reform measures. Longtime Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, who is retiring this year, says he’s open to the adoption of red flag laws. Such measures keep guns out of the hands of people deemed a danger to themselves or others. A spokesperson for Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall, by contrast, noted the senator's support for the STOP School Violence Act, which invested in school training and security infrastructure. Marshall said he would like more funding to help “harden more schools” in Kansas.

After the shooting Tuesday, Young sat her older kids down to discuss what had happened.

“And they both asked, ‘Are we safe to go to school?’ And those are things that our kids should not have to worry about.”

Melanie Olson-Cox, a mother of four from Lee’s Summit, says she doesn’t think guns should be fully banned, but things like permitless open or concealed carry, which is legal in Missouri and Kansas, should not be allowed.

She urges parents to stick together and talk about difficult topics like gun control. Olson-Cox, who’s youngest is 8-years-old, says people need to act by contacting their representatives in Congress and the statehouse.

“I mean, what will our children say when it continues if we don’t try?” she said.

But not everyone agrees. Bren Brown is a mother of college-aged kids and co-owner of Frontier Justice gun store in Lee’s Summit.

Brown says you can’t blame guns — or gun sellers — for the actions of people.

“I can completely understand the viewpoints for sure, but what it comes down to is you cannot legislate criminals . . . You have to address the core root issue, which is much more complicated, and it's hard to tackle,” said Brown. “Blaming a tool for crime is just not right. It's infringing on people's rights in America and the Second Amendment.”

Brown suggested parents could buy backpack shields to keep their kids safe.

“I understand people wanting to do something. Everybody wants to do something. We want this to end,” she said. “But again, I say we have to circle back to mental health. And in the meantime, there are some things to do to keep yourself safe.”

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga is a freelance reporter for KCUR 89.3.
As a producer for Up To Date, my goal is to inform our audience by curating interesting and important conversations with reliable sources and individuals directly affected by a topic or issue. I strive for our program to be a place that hosts impactful conversations, providing our audience with greater knowledge, intrigue, compassion and entertainment. Contact me at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz.
As an assistant producer on Up To Date, my goal is to amplify voices of people who serve as pioneers in their respective fields while shedding light on issues that affect underserved communities. I produce daily conversations to uplift and inspire the people of the Kansas City area to make the world a better place. You can reach me at reginalddavid@kcur.org.
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