Mayor critical of state restrictions on urban gun laws

Mayor James.

Mayor Sly James, who has long complained about state laws preventing city restrictions on guns, did so again in a blog last week.

His statement came in the wake of several shootings and murders.

It also came the day that the chairman of the council’s public safety committee said he would argue to overturn a state law that allows guns in passenger compartments of vehicles.

James listed that change among his assessment of what should be done. He also listed universal background checks for all gun sales and transfers, mandatory reporting and identification of stolen guns, and creation of a gun court  “to vigorously and swiftly prosecute idiots who use illegal guns in criminal acts.”

But James added, “fear not upset friends. Nothing that I have proposed is very likely to be enacted in Missouri.”

The Missouri General Assembly has made it impossible for cities “to do anything substantive to stem the tsunami of illegal guns into the hands of criminal idiots on city streets,” he wrote.

Yet he won’t let it go. It’s not like he wants to rid the country of guns, he wrote.

“I don’t oppose law-abiding citizens owning guns as long as they go through a reasonable background check when they legally purchase or acquire a gun, they are licensed, know how to use it and safeguard kids who could access the gun. Why is any of that unreasonable? So why not do it?”

He also quotes a report by the Harvard School of Public Health that states:

“Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the U.S. where there are more guns, both men and women are at a higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.”

But James notes the gap between what we KNOW and how we ACT on it.

Since 2008, more than 500 people have been the victim of gun related homicides in Kansas City. Besides the many illegal guns, experts know education plays a major role.

“We KNOW that only 33.8 percent of third graders in our city of 14 school districts are proficient in reading,” he wrote and “We KNOW that people who build prison cells predict how many they’ll need based on THIRD GRADE READING PROFICIENCY.”

Poor urban kids, especially boys, hear 30 million fewer words than their suburban peers, James stated.

“What we can do now is have a tough conversation about what to do going forward,” he wrote.

Things like a reading program and the Kansas City No Violence Alliance – with its mixture of prison for some and help for others – “require buy-in from every resident, business, church, and nonprofit in Kansas City.”

“Without that,” James concluded, “my hands remain tied.”

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