Should Kansas City look into “Gun Courts” to fight gun violence?

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Missouri's top cop says he is in favor of the idea of "gun courts" -- or specialized courts that would handle certain crimes involving guns. He says it's a good way to crack down on gun violence and get tough on criminals. These Armed Offender Dockets would focus on less serious gun crimes, murder and assault would still be handled in the regular courts. The idea was being floated in St Louis but judges there recently voted on it and rejected the idea.

Still, Attorney General Chris Koster says he likes gun courts and will do what he can to support the idea in St Louis and here in Kansas City. At the crime summit in St Louis, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker compared crime to a disease and the idea of "gun courts" as the right medicine.

"This is not treatment court, it's not a get tough and throw away the key court," she said, "it is concentrating resources on these key individuals who a lot of them are impacting future violence on our cities and we're all paying the price for that."

Gun courts would focus on strict punishments for criminals who use a gun in a crime, and would set higher bails to keep criminals behind bars. That's something UMKC Law School Professor Allen Rostron says could help prevent crime.

"So it wouldn't be a situation where they get out on bail and they don't go to trail for 2-3 years and it's not much of a deterrent to get arrested for that kind of thing," he said.

Rostron used to work for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington DC. But he says gun courts are something people on both sides of the issue can get behind.

"This is something I think both sides can agree on, if people break the gun laws we have especially when it's a violent crime, we can all agree... that we should crack down on that," he said.

But defense attorney and gun rights advocate Kevin Jamison says his biggest problem with gun courts is that idea of a high cash only bail.

"That's as unconstitutional as all get out," he said, "the constitution guarantees a reasonable bond."

He says gun courts have been discussed before but rejected. He fears these courts would end up being filled with legal gun owners being brought in on hyper technical charges. He says this is just a way for politicians to say they're trying to fix the problem of gun violence.

"Every time I heard there will be a special court to make sure people are punished it raises the hair on the back of my neck," he said, "when this gun court doesn't solve their problem they'll come up with something else."

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