While St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones is trying to explain away text messages that show her expressing doubt about the effectiveness of local gun control laws, the man in charge of Missouri’s other big city says local gun control ordinances are vital to combatting crime. Kansas City Mayor Quentin Lucas is set to meet with Jones and other mayors later this week to push for an end to Missouri’s firearm preemption law, which he says is helping to drive the homicide spike currently taking place in K.C.
“I think the community is awash in firearms and largely firearms that are in place where people either are drinking or looking at retaliation, are looking at any number of issues,” Lucas told reporters Friday. “And I think it is clear, not just from Kansas City, but if you talk to mayors, prosecutors and police officers in any major city in the country, these are ingredients that have led to more incidents like these.”
Actually, as we reported last week, it looks like homicides are dropping in many cities around the country, including in St. Louis, which has seen an admittedly modest 3.5% decline compared to this point in 2022. But other cities, including those in states with both permitless carry and firearms preemption laws already in place, have seen more substantial decreases. Murders in Houston are down nearly 24% compared to last year, down 22% in Cincinnati, 61% in Lexington, Kentucky, and 75% in Savannah, Georgia, for example.
Meanwhile, some cities in states with very restrictive gun laws are seeing homicide spikes similar to the increase in Kansas City; a 19% increase in Washington, D.C., 37% increase in Syracuse, New York, a whopping 100% increase in San Jose, California, and an even higher 140% increase in New Haven, Connecticut, just to name a few.
Violent crime is, by and large, a local phenomenon, but adding more local gun control ordinances isn’t the answer. Localities can create new misdemeanor ordinances, but those are unlikely to dissuade violent criminals from committing felony offenses, and will more often be used as plea bargain bait for serious offenders or to ensnare otherwise law-abiding legal gun owners arrested for possessory “crimes” that may be perfectly legal a block away or even across the street. When politicians like Lucas believe the problem is “too many guns”, then making it legally dangerous for even lawful gun owners to carry is seen as beneficial, but Kansas City’s real issue isn’t the number of guns. It’s the number of people getting away with murder.
As the Kansas City Star reported in late June, the homicide clearance rate in the city stands at just 33%. If two out of every three homicides results in no charges, criminals are going to feel empowered and emboldened to pull the trigger. One way to increase those numbers is to increase the number of officers who are on patrol in high-crime neighborhoods and fostering an environment where victims and witnesses feel comfortable coming forward, but with police staffing levels in the city at an historic low, that isn’t likely to happen.
With Kansas City, Missouri on pace to potentially set a new homicide record, the Kansas City Police Department is at its lowest force strength in fifty years.
According to Fraternal Order of Police President Brad Lemon, there are currently 284 unfilled police officer positions for KCPD.
… Based on numbers from KCPD Annual Reports, there’s been a decade long trend in declining police officer numbers and an increase in homicides.
Those records show KCPD started 2014 with 1427 officers.
In 2014, there were 79 homicides.
Currently, KCPD has 1098 police officers.
And as of July 6th, Kansas City has seen 101 homicides.
I get why Mayor Lucas wants to pin the blame on state lawmakers, but the truth is that there are serious structural problems within the city itself that’s helping to fuel the violence, and an end to firearms preemption isn’t going to make anything better. Instead, it will lead to more non-violent possessory offenses being enforced by a decimated police force, while the actual perpetrators of violence remain untouched and untroubled by the laws on the books.
Kansas City’s unacceptable levels of homicides are fixable, just not through an end to preemption or putting new misdemeanor laws in place. Lucas and his fellow Democrats in charge of Kansas City need to get back to basics: an emphasis on solving crimes, an end to sweetheart plea deals, and a fully-staffed and functional police department. Do those three things and crime will fall. Put more gun control laws on the books, on the other hand, and “crimes” like carrying without a license or possessing a “large capacity” magazine will soar right along with the staggeringly high homicide rates in Kansas City.