Update, August 29, 5:11 p.m.: The full Kansas City Council approved both ordinances on Thursday.
Kansas City, Missouri, could take a step toward stricter gun laws — despite loose state laws.
So far this year, there have been 99 homicides. Five victims were 16-years-old or younger and 29 were between the ages of 17 and 24.
On Wednesday, a Kansas City Council committee unanimously passed two ordinances which are aimed at keeping handguns and other firearms out of the hands of minors. Mayor Quinton Lucas introduced the measures earlier this month.
“You have folks, young people, that are carrying [guns] every day. This is one tool in the toolbox… I this is a good step to make our city safer,” Lucas said.
Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McManus said it was important that the measure be written precisely to protect the city from a legal challenge from the state, and commended Lucas for his work.
“I appreciate you bringing this forward and finding, I think, a really creative solution to get us at least on legal footing to make some really substantial changes that can help out police and law enforcement have clarity on what they can do,” McManus said.
The ordinances, modeled after existing federal law, ban possession of a handgun for anyone 18 or under. The change would add make it a municipal violation, so police could take guns out of the hands of teenagers.
“We created ... legal means for police to be able to recover firearms,” Lucas said.
The penalty for a first-time offender would be a fine not to exceed $200 and diversion if the offender is eligible. Lucas says that would avoid a firearm charge from staying on a minor’s permanent record. If the minor is not eligible for diversion, the maximum sentence in a juvenile facility would be 30 days.
Under federal law, it is illegal for a minor to own a handgun with certain exceptions, but it’s rarely enforced. State law does not ban minors from possessing guns. Lucas believes the ordinances are narrowly tailored enough to stand up in the courts.
Kansas City, Missouri, Police Captain Scott Simons said the ordinances would help him do his job better.
He referenced a specific incident from February to illustrate the prevalence of guns in the hands of young people.
Simons said officers responded to a call of shots fired and encountered two juveniles with handguns. Both denied they owned the guns, so officers recovered the guns for safekeeping.
Four hours later, he said, different officers responded to a call of shots fired and stopped two minors nearby.
“It turns out it was the same two minors that the other officers had stopped, both of them were armed with guns again,” Simons said.
The measures would allow minors to possess guns in certain circumstances, in accordance with the federal law. For example, they could carry a firearm if they are a member of the armed forces or if a parent gave it to them.
Erikka French, who lives in northeast Kansas City, is a single mother of four.
“I see the gun violence on the daily... We’re already living in fear, how much more fear do we have to live in to get the point across?”
French said the measures don’t go far enough. She said kids shouldn’t be able to carry a gun just because their parents say they can.
“It’s like the city saying, ‘We condone the murders. We’re ok with you killing each other off as long as you got a piece of paper and documentation that says it’s ok,” French said.
Members of the committee said they agreed with French, but are limited by state and federal law from going any further.
The full city council will consider the ordinances Thursday.
Lisa Rodriguez covers Kansas City, Missouri, City Hall for KCUR 89.3. She’s also the afternoon newscaster. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.