Kansas City Mayor's Excuses for Crime Don't Add Up

It was pretty savvy of the Biden administration to bring dozens of state legislators and public officials to D.C. to take part in the latest public relations stunt from the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. The event garnered national media attention, but there was plenty of coverage from local press outlets as well; each reporting on what their own area lawmakers had to say and giving the gun controllers even more free media.


Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Quentin Lucas was one of those local officials on hand on Wednesday, and anti-gun activists had to be thrilled at the resulting report from the Kansas City Star, which laid the blame for Kansas City’s crime woes at the feet of Missouri’s Republican majority.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas met with White House officials on Wednesday over a proposed federal rule expanding background checks and other steps to control gun violence as the city approaches a record number of homicides in 2023.

The visit comes after Kansas City’s 177th homicide of the year over the weekend, just shy of the 2020 record of 182 killings. As city officials look for solutions to the violence, they have often been hamstrung by loose state gun laws enacted by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

But in Washington, Lucas sees a potential new tool to keep guns away from those who already have a violent criminal record.

Federal law requires businesses selling guns to conduct background checks on buyers, but many guns sales online and at gun shows aren’t covered. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wants to expand the definition of business to cover more firearms dealers.

The agency estimates that as few as 24,500 to as many as 328,000 sellers nationwide could be affected by the rule.

“In Kansas City, we are constrained at the state and local level … we need to look to tools from our federal partners,” Lucas told The Star.


Not only did the Star point the finger at Republicans for murders in Kansas City, it managed to create a false narrative about gun sales and background checks. Businesses selling firearms have to put buyers through a background check no matter if that sale takes place at a gun show, online, or a brick-and-mortar retail location. What the ATF wants to do is expand the definition of who is “engaged in the business” of selling firearms to include almost every gun owner who engages in a private transfer; a move that’s meant to come as close to a “universal background check” mandate as possible without Congress enacting a new law.

Criminals are still going to sell guns under the table, as well as acquire them through illicit means like straw purchases or theft, but according to Lucas this new rule could make a big difference in Kansas City, since he blames a lack of state-level gun laws for the growing violence under his watch.

There’s one big flaw in Lucas’s argument, though. If a lack of gun control laws is what’s fueling violence in Kansas City, Missouri, we should see evidence of that in the state’s other major metropolitan area, but that’s not the case. Homicides are up by about 4 percent in KC this year, but they’re down by almost 26 percent in St. Louis. That suggests that whatever is driving violent crime in Kansas City, it’s not the state’s gun laws.


According to crime analyst Jeff Asher, homicides are dropping in about 75 percent of the cities that he monitors, and 2023 could end up with one of the biggest one-year declines in the murder rate in the past 60 years. The outliers where crime is growing include cities with extensive gun control laws like Washington, D.C. (where murders have increased by 34 percent) as well as cities like Memphis (a 32 percent increase in homicides) that don’t have many gun control laws on the books. Conversely, some gun-controlled cities like Los Angeles are seeing decreases in homicides (down 16 percent compared to last year), but we’re also seeing declines in cities without many gun control laws like Atlanta (a 19 percent reduction) and Houston (down 22 percent).

Crime is ultimately a local, not a national phenomenon, and it’s typically concentrated in just a few square blocks and committed by a very small percentage of the population. I know it’s both easier and politically advantageous for Lucas to want to blame Republicans in Jefferson City for the increase in homicides in Kansas City, but if he’s serious about bringing those numbers down he should be looking closer to home instead of palling around with Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and the gun control activists ensconced in the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.


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