Mother fights for tougher gun laws on the third anniversary of daughter’s death

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo -- It was three years ago that four men were celebrating the Fourth of July by shooting off a gun. One of those bullets travelled the distance of three football fields, across the lake and hit eleven year-old girl Blair Shanahan Lane, killing her.

Her mother, Michele Shanahan DeMoss, recalls the moment her daughter was shot. "Literally right before my eyes Blair fell and I lunged forward to catch her. When I rolled her over she was hemorrhaging from her neck."

Moments before she was shot, Blair was playing with her cousins at a Fourth Of July celebration. Dancing, smiling and enjoying the party. Michele says she remembers emergency crews arriving quickly to the scene.

"When the paramedic knelt down beside me, I pleaded with him, please, do whatever you can do."

Michele says her daughter was conscious before she was taken to the hospital, saying "She mouthed the words to me, "I love you mom." Those would be Blair's last words.

Aaron Sullivan, 50, is the man who owned the gun that killed Blair. He spent just 18 months in jail. Now Blair's mom is lobbying for tougher laws for recklessly discharging a gun. It's called Blair's Law, and is being considered in both the Kansas and Missouri State Legislatures.

"They refer to the bullet that took Blair's life as a stray bullet is a misdemeanor. And we are lobbying to make it a felony," Michele explains. "People will know, it's not a toy. A weapon is not a toy."

No one knows that better than Emily Perilla Crouch. "I have a very hard time talking about my story," she says.

Emily was just 14 when she was shot in the head by a bullet fired as the fireworks were going off at midnight on New Year's Eve. The man who shot the bullet that landed in her head was six blocks from where she and her family were watching the fireworks.

Emily says at first, no one knew she had been shot.

"I was in the ambulance on my way to the hospital and that's when they noticed the blood coming out."

She says the man who shot her was caught after the bullet doctors took out of Emily's head was matched with a gun used in a carjacking. She says the man was prosecuted, but it was not enough, she said.

"He actually had to serve more time for the carjacking than he did for shooting me."

Emily is joining Michelle in her effort for tougher penalties for recklessly gunfire. Michele says it will be a long road.

"The average legislation takes six years to pass, so unfortunately this is not a hurried situation. It's not hurried as quick as a life was taken by something like this."

The year 2017 will be six years since Blair was killed by the bullet. Michelle hopes that will be the year the law is passed, to celebrate what would have been the year Blair would have graduated from high school.

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  • jeanne

    I am a gun owner. I don’t think my rights need to be restricted any more as far as my ownership but I do agree with harsher punishments on gun violations and on reckless discharge of a weapon. I take gun safety very seriously. I am very sorry for the loss of Blair and for the injury to Emily.

    • Wayne

      I agree 100%. I do not like people trying to pass more laws restricting ownership, magazine limits and bans on one of my best rifles I own. I am all for harsher punishment of those who commit crimes with guns. The guns themselves are not the problem. It’s the people holding the gun that is the problem. Felons steal guns or buy them on the black market, then are caught, serve some time and then are right back out and do the exact same thing. Someone who kills someone due to negligence has still killed someone. This also goes for other things, not gun related, like drunk drivers. Same thing there, they drive drunk, get caught, sometimes lose license but still hop in a car anyway. Then they get drunk again, caught and do it again. Eventually they have a fatal accident and it’s never the one who was drunk that dies. There are too many supposed accidents, drunk driver accidentally kills someone, negligent firearm accidentally harms or kills someone, neglectful parent accidentally leaves a child in a hot car and they die, so many more. The sentences never seem to match the crime and there is no real incentive for them not to do it again.

  • Ben

    Until the number of victims and their family members out number NRA members, nothing will happen; however, they way things are going, victims should soon out number NRA members.