EDITORIAL: Missouri lawmakers should curb celebratory gunfire

Tuesday , March 13, 2018 - 6:56 AM

Kansas City Star

Legislation making indiscriminate gunfire a felony in Missouri could prevent a repeat of a tragic accidental shooting death of an 11-year-old girl. And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should ensure that this long overdue measure is passed.

House Bill 2302, or “Blair’s Law,” has been reintroduced in the Missouri General Assembly by Rep. DaRon McGee, a Democrat from Kansas City. It aims to make firing a gun within city limits a felony, with some exceptions, including self-defense and shooting weapons at gun ranges.

The legislation, named in honor of a young girl killed by celebratory gunfire in 2011, would also protect hunters lawfully pursuing wildlife. It would essentially prohibit firing a weapon within one mile of a dwelling but would not affect people living in rural areas.

The goal is to curb celebratory gunfire prevalent during holidays such as the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. Firing indiscriminately is currently considered a municipal violation.

McGee correctly characterizes his proposal as a common-sense approach to responsible gun ownership. It could go before committee this month.

“This goes beyond common sense,” McGee mused. “This is simple, simple stuff.”

Originally introduced in 2012 after 11-year-old Blair Shanahan Lane was fatally struck in the neck by an errant bullet, the measure got buried in bureaucracy and never gained traction.

It’s a shame this bill has not moved in six years, McGee said.

A Kansas City man pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the girl’s death and served 18 months in prison. But a suspect convicted under Blair’s Law would face at least four years in prison.

As McGee said, some people may not be aware of the dangers of celebratory gunfire. But the prospect of being charged with a felony could help deter that dangerous and indefensible behavior.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker recently held a press conference with McGee and Blair’s family to bring attention to the bill.

Baker has previously appeared before the General Assembly to speak on the issue, and she helped local legislators craft legislation to reduce gunfire. She likened the Missouri measure to Shannon’s Law, enacted in Arizona one year after the 1999 shooting death of 14-year-old Shannon Smith of Phoenix. That law made it a felony to discharge firearms randomly into the air.

Virginia passed a similar law in 2014, one year after the accidental shooting death of a 7-year-old boy.

Shortly after Blair’s death, Baker said the bill would “champion the issue of responsible gun ownership,” adding that we should “not wait for an innocent child to die.” The sentiment remains true six years later.

“Firing a gun into the air is so incredibly dangerous,” the prosecutor said. “You just don’t know where the bullet will land.”

Missouri lawmakers should act now to prevent more needless tragedies by finally passing “Blair’s Law.”

Copyright Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.

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