JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In the final hours of session, the Missouri General Assembly sent legislation to the governor’s desk to impose tougher penalties for people who fire celebratory gunshots.
In 2011, bullets fired on the 4th of July, fell killing 11-year-old Blair Shanahan Lane. Since then, Blair’s mom Michele Shanahan DeMoss has been coming to Jefferson City to ask lawmakers to strengthen the state’s law. Nearly 12 years later, the General Assembly gave final approval to the bill Thursday.
“I’m just thankful for this corner that we turned and the finish line that we’ve crossed,” DeMoss said after the vote while holding back years. “It’s incredible to me. It’s been a marathon but it’s been worth it.”
After years of pleading for tougher laws, Blair’s Law is headed to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.
“It’s not the drive back and forth, it’s not the gas money or the mileage on the car, they are reliving it every time they come here,” Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, said on the Senate floor. “I think this one issue we can all agree on.”
Blair’s mom watched as her 11-year-old daughter was killed by a stray bullet in Kansas City back in July 2011.
“We were on 19 acres,” DeMoss said. “The bullet traveled three football fields, hitting her in the neck. I saw her kind of raise up and start falling and you can tell something had happened.”
Four men were later arrested and charged with shooting a pistol recklessly into a nearby lake. Aaron Sullivan, 50, served a short prison sentence after being charged with manslaughter.
“Under current law, that’s not crime because you’re not killing someone intentionally, so it can be brought as a homicide offense,” Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, sponsor of Senate Bill 189, said.
In the final hours of session, the Senate passed the bipartisan legislation. DeMoss watched from the side of the Senate chamber, holding back tears.
“It shouldn’t happen, and people should be able to understand it’s a reckless decision to make,” DeMoss aid. “A gun isn’t a toy. You say take me back, I mean I close my eyes and I’m there and that’s what I look forward to tomorrow is resting.”
Under Blair’s Law, it will be a crime of unlawful discharge of a firearm to shoot a gun with criminal negligence within a city’s limits.
“When she was in my office earlier, she said she wanted to be down here, and she hoped that for Mother’s Day this year, she would finally get to see this law pass the General Assembly.” Luetkemeyer said.
After 12 years of testifying in front of Senate and House committees and waiting for action from lawmakers, the bill now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.
“Oh my gosh,” DeMoss said. “I can rest. Maybe I won’t have to come back next year.”
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Blair’s Law was part of a large crime bill. Other provisions in the legislation include removing the salary cap for the Kansas City Police Department for all officers, streamlining the expungement process, compensate people who have been wrongfully convicted and create a restitution system for people whose convictions are overturned. The bill originally was proposed to increase the penalty for people who are convicted of killed a police dog, the measure is known as “Max’s Law” after the killing of a St. Joseph K-9 officer Max.