Teen victim’s family hopeful as Congress poised to approve $25M in gun violence research

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BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. -- Congress is a step closer to approving a $1.4 trillion spending bill. One item, $25 million earmarked for gun violence research, is getting a lot of attention.

It's this exact type of violence that kept Colby Stephenson from reaching his 17th birthday.

"He could brighten up a whole entire room with his smile and his laugh," Colby's mom, Michelle Stephenson, said.

Colby was shot and killed December 18, 2017 outside a Blue Springs home on 6th Street when he was just 16 years old.

Michelle said she now dreads the holidays without him, knowing those responsible haven't been caught.

"Unfortunately, the killers who killed him get to unwrap presents and laugh and joke and carry on with their loved ones, but Colby's loved ones, we don't get that," Stephenson said.

Michelle is one person out of the thousands impacted by gun violence each year nationwide.

"These people die. Four hundred thousand people a year die as a result of gun violence," Judy Sherry, president of Grandparents Against Gun Violence, said. "Not understanding and researching it is really a crime."

But for the first time in 23 years, that could soon change.

The US House of Representatives has signed off on a massive spending package, which includes $25 million for gun violence research. It will be split between the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health, allowing a deep dive into the root causes of gun violence: both murder and suicide.

"My hope is, by having the data from research, we can say 'OK, we get it. Here's what caused it. Here's how we can help solve it,'" Sherry said.

While Michelle Stephenson said she wants answers in her son's case, she also knows that the people who commit crimes are often hurting too. She said she is encouraged that those in power are finally funding research to uncover things that could spare other families the pain she's endured.

"That's actually going to be a really great resource for us out here, for a lot of us parents - sisters, brothers and loves ones -- that are hurting and going through this pain right now with the children that are being murdered behind senseless people with guns," Stephenson said.

The spending bill now heads to the US Senate. It needs President Trump's signature by Friday to avoid a government shutdown.

If you have any information that can help solve Colby Stephenson's murder case, you're encouraged to contact Blue Springs Police or the Crime Stoppers line at (816) 474-TIPS.

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