KANSAS CITY, Mo. — So far this year there have been 109 homicides in Kansas City.
That means the city is on track to tie 2017, the deadliest year for Kansas City homicides in 24 years. None of this is lost on newly-elected Mayor Quinton Lucas.
“I don’t want a third homicide on my third day as mayor,” he said.
Then, on his third day in office, he got a third homicide and then a fourth.
The reality of gun violence and its human cost is not a fact lost on Lucas, who grew up and still lives on the city’s east side.
“I remember growing up here in Kansas City, knowing murder scenes down the street, hearing about people who got killed. I think I got used to it as a kid. Sirens were something I’m used to. Bullets flying or something I’m used to and that’s screwed up.”
Many fear our familiarity with deadly shootings and their frequency, both nationally and here at home, is contributing to people becoming desensitized.
“We didn’t get into this problem within one year and we’re not going to get out of the problem within one year, but what we need to make sure we do is never get used to this amount of violence,” he said.
In his first few weeks in office, Mayor Lucas and the city council passed an ordinance making it illegal for minors to possess handguns within city limits. They passed a second ordinance making it illegal for an adult to provide a handgun to a minor without parental consent.
“All of us can agree that there are certain people walking around in our community that shouldn’t have firearms. Those are felons, those are drug users, those are minors.”
The new ordinances will allow officers working in the city to remove handguns from teenagers who are found with them.
“I’ve had a number of officers who’ve said, ‘Yeah, we stopped some young person and we couldn’t take a gun off of them because they were committing no actual offense under Missouri law,’ and unfortunately under federal law the case wouldn’t get prosecuted.”
The change in city ordinance wasn’t passed with the idea of putting more teens behind bars. Mayor Lucas wants to start with classes or therapy.
“It’s heartbreaking because it’s like at such a young age, somebody who said, ‘I don’t have a use,’ you know? It is just this helplessness.”
During a visit to some KC public schools, Lucas said, the dark reality of violence in the city really struck him.
“I see those kids and I see them smiling and full of energy and they’re telling me what they want to be and they’re saying like, ‘I want to be the mayor,’ and all that sort of stuff,” he said.
“And the thing that I will never be able to live with is that if you’re looking at the statistics of how things go in this city, one of those children’s going to be dead by the time they’re 20 years old, another one of those children might be in prison by the time they’re 20 years old. I can’t live with that. And there is no greater job we have than to change what that statistic looks like.”