No more firing into the sky

Brennan Stebbins

Sen. Yvonne Wilson (D-Kansas City) is tired of all the ruckus caused by celebratory gunshots fired into the air around her home on certain holidays.

Wilson said she’s lived in the urban corridor of Kansas City her whole life, and the shooting has gotten worse on New Year’s and the Fourth of July.

“For New Year’s it starts about 11 p.m. and goes until sometimes 12:30 a.m.,” she said. “But the real problem is the fear that when you shoot a gun, the bullet goes up and it has to come down and in most cases it comes down with more force than it went up. When you have many guns shooting off either next door or across the street or the next block, bullets can come from various directions; come straight through your windows, through your rooftops.

“There have been several cases in different states where people have been killed or injured.”

To combat the problem, Wilson has sponsored SB 82, which expands the unlawful use of a weapon crime to include shooting guns into the air as celebration in urban areas. The bill is identical to one sponsored last year, but that never became law.

“I’ve watched a lot of movies and it sounds like a battlefield, it goes on and on,” Wilson said of the holiday gun-firing. “Even sometimes it sounds like explosives going off. Just to listen to that for an hour at the most, and to live in fear like that, it doesn’t’ seem like it’s fair to the elderly who have serious illnesses or to children who are afraid.”

While discharging a firearm in the air is already illegal in Kansas City, Wilson said her bill would aid law enforcement who already struggle to contain the problem, and make others considering firing their weapon think again.

“They know there is not enough law enforcement to handle it and there’s not enough teeth in the law,” Wilson said. “The police are running from one place to another, they are not like the firemen who can sit and wait for a fire, policemen are on the go all of the time. It would take more than our police force to be able to put a handle on this.”

If approved, the bill would make it a state offense, and not just an infraction of city ordinance.

“If they realized this was a state offense, it would cut down on the number of people who continue to ignore the city ordinance,” she said.

As logical as the legislation sounds to her, Wilson isn’t optimistic about the bill’s chances of advancing this session. After entering the Senate in 2004, Wilson introduced the bill numerous times, but nothing has come from it. The Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence committee heard it this week, but no vote has been released.

“On the one hand I can thank the chairman for the hearing, on the other hand I go in with the feeling that it’s not going anywhere,” Wilson said. “I feel like I want to give up on it, but I don’t want to give up on it because I think I owe it to the citizens and the constituents to continue to try and do something about it even though I don’t feel I have the support for it.”

The Senator credited pro-gun groups for stalling movement of the bill.

“It’s not an attempt to take guns away from people,” she said. “I noticed in the hallway there were many people from NRA. People are so fearful of you wanting to take their guns away from them. That isn’t the intent of this bill at all. I don’t know if that intimidates members of the committee or what it is, but I owe it to the constituents to keep trying.”

For any committee members skeptical of the problem in urban Kansas City, Wilson offered a solution.

“I invited the members of the committee to come to my house on New Years Eve night and unless you are there, you just have no feeling for the amount of fear and noise. You just have no idea.

“Just like we have not been on the battlefield, unless you’ve been on the battlefield you won’t know what it’s really like.”