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Kansas Citians can't stop worrying about gun violence when they go out in public

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Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3
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Nightlife in Westport moves between the barricades and weaves in and around the bars and restaurants.

Following a string of mass shootings, many Kansas City residents said they’re nervous to go out in public, especially to crowded entertainment districts like Westport or Power & Light.

There have been 250 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year. Meanwhile, Kansas City is currently on track to surpass the second deadliest year in history.

Calling in to KCUR’s Up To Date on Friday, several Kansas City residents said they’re nervous to go out in public — especially crowded entertainment districts like Westport and Power & Light — and are concerned about their children’s safety in school.

“I am aware everywhere I go, all the time, that I could witness or be a victim of gun hostility," said Lauren from Merriam, Kansas.

Kansas City Police Sergeant Jake Becchina says that being aware of your surroundings at large events is often the most effective way to stay safe. He argued that school resource officers are an effective way to keep kids safe in school and focused on learning.

However, one caller — William from Overland Park — pushed back against more law enforcement as a solution.

“Everyone keeps dancing around the subject that the real problem here is too many guns,” William said. "They spent hundreds of millions of dollars — the school resource officers who up to now have stopped not a single gun incident or mass shooting — school resource officers are interacting with kids and arresting children and doing all kinds of other stuff, but they haven't stopped a single mass shooting at a school. So why would more of them do more?”

Kansas Rep. Stephanie Clayton, a Democratic lawmaker from Overland Park, says that lax gun laws are making it harder for both law enforcement and school officers to do their jobs. She wants to make it gradually harder for people to get guns by implementing waiting periods and increasing restrictions on gun shows and online sales.

"I don't necessarily think that spending a bunch of money to turn our schools into almost prisons so that people can have their gun hobby,” Clayton told Up To Date. “You know, my children sacrifice an awful lot with the scary drills with having to worry. I have hobbies and my hobbies don't inconvenience other people or make it more likely for them to die or make the state spend more money hardening our schools so that people can have their gun hobby."

Missouri Sen. Lauren Arthur from Kansas City says it’s nearly impossible to find ways to pass “common sense” gun control in a GOP-controlled state legislature. And she added that the recent changes in Missouri’s gun laws – like prohibiting local police and highway patrols from enforcing federal gun laws — have made residents less safe.

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As senior producer of Up To Date, I want our listeners to hear familiar and new voices that shine light on the issues and challenges facing the myriad communities KCUR serves, and to expose our audiences to the wonderful and the creative in the Kansas City area. Just as important to me is an obligation to mentor the next generation of producers to ensure that the important conversations continue. Reach me at alexanderdk@kcur.org.