Independence mayor wants tougher ordinance to keep guns away from teens

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- City leaders in Independence believe its time to get tough on gun-based crimes.

Independence Mayor Eileen Weir told city council members Tuesday, hoping to update city ordinances to make it harder for teenagers to acquire guns.

Weir said she want to raise the legal age for gun possession to 18 from the present age of 17. Weir explained this is the city's effort to cut down on growing incidents of violent crime. Independence has had Safe Streets Regulations on the books since 1995, but Weir wants to update them, and to ensure they mirror those in neighboring Kansas City.

"We see individuals as young as 13, 14 and 15 are having access to deadly weapons," Weir said.

The mayor said giving teenagers easy access to guns is driving up crime numbers, which indicate since last December, the Independence Police Department's Street Crimes Unit has confiscated 86 illegal firearms. According to Weir, officers have investigated 175 gun-related crimes thus far in 2019. Weir emphasized this isn't a focus on legal gun owners, and there will be a concentration on felons who've gotten their hands on weapons.

"Enforcement of our laws is the crux of this. Making sure and working with our court system that when we file a case against someone that the court will take that case. That`s a big part of this -- that they`re going to accept and prosecute these cases," Weir said on Tuesday.

Count Travis Robbins, who manages a convenience store on 23rd Street, among those who don't believe changing laws will make a difference. Robbins said he's worked in retail for four years. In the past year, his store was robbed at gunpoint, and Robbins said he was shot at in a separate incident.

"The same as what`s going on right now with the gun laws, a lot of people just don't give a damn," Robbins said. "We value our employees lives more than anything. Everything else in the store, we could care less about. As long as our employees are OK, we're fine."

"I think it`s important for the community to know these laws do exist, and that we`re going to work to enforce them," Weir added.

Weir said under the proposed ordinance change, there will also be penalties placed on the parents and guardians who allow people below age 18 to use dangerous weapons. She realizes enforcement of this potential change could prove to be a challenge for police.

The proposed ordinance changes also include explosives and certain kinds of blades and knives. A city spokesperson told FOX4 the proposed changes will be heard by the city council on September 16, and council members will vote on them on October 7.

Independence's mayor also praised the police department, which recently established its first-ever Gun Squad. That new five-member team is assigned to track illegal gun use in an additional effort to curb illegal weapon use. Weir said the IPD Gun Squad started earlier this summer.

"What we're trying to identify is how do we get tougher on people who are illegally acquiring and using deadly weapons," Weir said.

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