Monday, July 14, 2014

Homicides down in first half of 2014

Thirty-four people have been murdered in Kansas City so far in 2014. This is about 30 percent less than at the same time in the last five years. But it is still 34 lives lost senselessly, and we are working to lower that number. Today's Kansas City Star article does a very good job discussing some of our efforts to reduce violent crime. I encourage you to read it. But know that we cannot do any of these things without the support and cooperation of the community. The safety of our city depends on you.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Come join us on Nextdoor

Yesterday, we joined with the City Manager’s and Mayor’s offices to officially launch Nextdoor in Kansas City. Nextdoor is a free and private social network for neighborhoods. On Nextdoor, neighbors create private web sites for their neighborhoods where they can ask questions, get to know one another, and exchange local advice and recommendations. 

Once I heard about it, I immediately recognized the benefit Nextdoor could have to police and community safety. It can serve as a virtual neighborhood watch.

One of my primary goals as police chief has been for our officers to build positive relationships with the residents they serve. Nextdoor provides us the opportunity to augment those existing relationships online while fostering new ones.

We are training more than 80 patrol officers and sergeants to use and manage this system. They will be responsible for communicating with people in the geographic areas they police. They know the concerns and opportunities in these areas already and are best suited to interact with the residents they serve. The officers will be able to post information pertaining to their whole patrol division or down to their beats.

We don’t intend for Nextdoor to be a replacement for face-to-face contact, but rather a complement to what we’re already doing. We look forward to residents being able to provide us information about safety concerns in their neighborhood and working with them to address those concerns.

Similarly, Nextdoor will serve as a great tool for us in soliciting assistance. As police, we can only do so much. We need the eyes, ears and cooperation of everyone to make this a safer city. A whole neighborhood of people watching for criminal activity or a suspect is usually far more effective at deterring and solving crime than anything our officers or detectives could do.

Nextdoor is another tool in our social media belt. Our police department has had great success with it and in 2013 was named the fourth-most social media friendly police department in the nation.

More than 110 Kansas City neighborhoods already are using Nextdoor, and I invite you to head over to to sign up! (You can also do it on your Android or iPhone through Nextdoor's free app.)

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Highlights from my NPR interview

I was pleased to be interviewed on Central Standard this week on our local NPR station, KCUR. Gina Kauffman asked some very thoughtful questions. If you didn't get the chance to listen, you can read more about it and hear the full interview online. Below are some of the highlights from our Q & A:

On whether Kansas City is a safe city to live in

Over 50 percent of our homicides occur in less than a 13 square-mile area of the city. So if you look at the other 300 square miles of Kansas City, it's a relatively safe place to live. Most of our crimes are concentrated in our poor neighborhoods, neighborhoods where educational opportunities are not taken advantage of, places with [high] unemployment. We don't need a computer to tell you where the crime is going to be. We can tell you from some of the socioeconomic conditions and things like that. These are places where we've had problems and we'll continue to have problems.

A lot of times it's lifestyle. You know, we have very few random homicides. Most homicides [involve a] victim and suspect that know each other. Often times, they were close associates at one time. So if you're not involved in a high-risk lifestyle, your chances of becoming a homicide victim in Kansas City are slim.

On if more police officers are needed

Of course we can always use more officers. When we talked about the budget cycle for my first two years, I didn't ask for more police personnel. I wanted to make sure we were using the staff we had efficiently and effectively. Now that we're talking about the budget cycle again, I will ask for more because there's some other things we need to do. To me, you could never have too many [officers]. Like we talked about, the response times to the non-priority calls [need to be addressed].

On response times when crimes are reported

We have to prioritize. When we talk about a priority one call, that's a sexual assault in progress, or an aggravated assault where firearms are being used. There's only so many police officers in Kansas City. I think we have to do a better job of educating the public on these things. If you have a burglary and there's no one there and no immediate danger, it may take up to a few hours before a police officer arrives. I understand the victim wants an immediate response, but I think we need to do a better job of sharing some [other crimes] that are going on in the rest of Kansas City so they don't feel disappointed by those high expectations.

How social media is changing police work

I tweet from @ChiefForte. I try to put as much as I can out there. It helps to dispel some things. For example, you hear [people] talk about the Plaza. There might be two 13-year-old girls fighting on the Plaza, and the media says it's a "Junior Riot" the next day. So I go down there and tweet about the two girls fighting because we don't need that negative image on Kansas City.

On faith driving his energy and enthusiasm

My mom raised me to not worry about a lot of things and just know that there is a God. I pray everyday throughout the day. My grandmother is 91 years old, and I talk to her on a regular basis. She always says, "Baby, just keep praying. I don't care what's happening out there."

I don't miss sleep because I'm worried about anything, I miss sleep because my mind is constantly going. I have my iPad with me all the time so when I wake up, I start taking notes. It's think it's just my energy level, I've always been like that since I was a kid. Now that I'm 52, I need at least five hours of sleep. I don't always get it, but if I get five hours of sleep I can run all day.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Remembering those who have fallen

Yesterday was our annual Memorial Service, honoring the 119 Kansas City Police officers who have died in the line of duty. Below is the speech I delivered on this occasion. I was honored to be joined by Officer Randy Evans, who spoke of how his father - also a KCPD officer - was killed in the line of duty when he was 9 years old, and how in spite of this, Randy decided to become a KCPD officer, too.

"Thank you all for coming here today to remember the lives of the 119 officers we have lost in the 140-year history of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. They are represented by the 119 flags you see before you. We also are celebrating the 13 years it has been since our department has suffered a line-of-duty death.

"However, I would be remiss to overlook the tragic death of Crime Scene Investigator Michael Chou last July. His shift had just ended, and when he was pulling out of the Crime Lab’s parking lot, he was struck and killed by a drunk driver. My thoughts and prayers – as well as those of his coworkers and the entire police department – remain with his family and friends. He technically was not on duty at the time of his death, but he was a bright and tenacious young man who left his mark at KCPD.

"We may not have had an officer killed in the line of duty since 2001, but their jobs remain very dangerous. Six times last year, our officers had to fatally wound suspects to protect their own lives. Five other officers had injuries so severe they had to end their law enforcement careers last year, and two more have done so this year. These career ending-injuries come from many kinds of dangerous situations, like a gun battle, physical struggles with suspects and car crashes. They all speak to the kind of dangers our officers are willing to face every day to serve the people of their city. They also are the kinds of things that keep our family members awake at night. I thank all the family members of law enforcement personnel here today, and I especially thank those whose worst fears were realized. Words cannot express the gratefulness and sorrow we feel for these family members of officers who lost their lives.

"We are doing everything we can to ensure no other family has to go through what Officer Evans’ family or any of these people sitting here did. Last August, instructors at our police academy began the Below 100 initiative. Below 100 is a national program that aims to bring line-of-duty officer deaths below 100 in a calendar year. The last time fewer than 100 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in America was 70 years ago in 1944. So far this year, there have been 45 line-of-duty-deaths.

"While innovations in medicine, training and protective equipment have brought deaths down from an all-time high of 278 officers killed in 1974, the current average of 150 per year since then is still far too high.

"Here’s how we’re making sure one of those tragedies does not take place in Kansas City: Every single entrant officer takes the Below 100 training right before graduating from the Police Academy. The course also is offered quarterly to current officers. It is free to our staff and those from any other agency who want to attend. The goal is to save lives, not make money.

"Below 100 centers on five tenets for officers, which address the top causes of line-of-duty deaths in American law enforcement. The tenets are: wear your seatbelt, wear your bullet-resistant vest, watch your speed, consider only what’s important now, and the fact that complacency kills. Everyone who undergoes the training gets one of these bracelets that says “Below 100” to constantly remind them of these things.

"Of the 119 KCPD officers killed in the line of duty, 73 died from gunfire. Another 18 were killed in motorcycle crashes, and 14 died in car crashes. Three were killed in helicopter crashes, and three others were beaten to death. Other officers in our history drowned while trying to rescue flood victims, were killed in a streetcar crash, were hit by a train, had a heart attack during arrest or died in a fall.

"Our Academy instructors, commanders, supervisors and I take the responsibility of properly training and equipping our officers extremely seriously. It is incumbent on us to ensure that every sworn member of our department has the knowledge and resources to go home safely at the end of their shifts. Some tragedies cannot be prevented. But we are working diligently to prevent those we can. I hope that the brave fallen officers who we remember and honor today would be proud of the steps we’ve taken to keep other families from enduring the same loss theirs had to.

Thank you."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bill would harm federal partnerships that reduce violent crime

Yesterday, I joined Mayor Sly James, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Richard Callahan, U.S. District Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, in Jefferson City to speak out against a bill pending in the Missouri Legislature that seeks to nullify federal gun laws. I posted the mayors’ piece on this blog Monday.

I want to make clear that I support the Second Amendment, and I support the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. But parts of this legislation, dubbed “The Second Amendment Preservation Act,” do little to support the rights of lawful gun owners. Instead, it hinders some of the best tools we in municipal law enforecement have – federal partnerships – to reduce violent crime.

This bill would make it against the law for our officers to work with federal agents to enforce gun laws. Below are just some of the federal partnerships and programs in which we engage to fight violent crime, and they all would be in jeopardy if the Missouri General Assembly passes this legislation.

Last year, Kansas City Police worked with our federal partners to get 132 violent criminals off the street with federal felon in possession of firearms cases as part of Project Ceasefire. We also recovered 204 illegal weapons. In the first quarter of this year, we’ve arrested 34 felons in possession of firearms and recovered 66 illegal firearms. The primary elements of Operation Ceasefire are stopping illicit firearms traffickers and harsh federal prison sentences that give gang members and other criminals a strong deterrent to gun violence. House Bill 1439 puts this incredibly successful program and the safety of our residents in jeopardy.

Twenty KCPD detectives are deputized by federal agencies to enforce federal gun laws.

Our Career Criminal Squad alone has two FBI agents, two ATF agents, five U.S. Deputy Marshals, and one Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent. This Squad is one of the best in the nation at tracking down violent criminals, having arrested more than 200 federal fugitives in the last eight years. The majority of those fugitives have committed violent crimes with firearms. Again, House Bill 1439 would likely dismantle this Squad.

Last year, our Gang Squads arrested 21 violent gang members with the assistance of federal partners. They were charged on hundreds of federal counts – many of them weapons charges. So far this year, nine gang members have been arrested and charged with 66 federal counts. If HB 1439 were to pass, we could not continue this kind of enforcement, and gang activity would undoubtedly increase in Kansas City.

A total of 20 federal agents from the ATF, DEA, FBI, U.S. Marshals and ICE are directly assigned to KCPD squads and regional task forces that investigate violent crimes and drug trafficking organizations. These cases involve large amounts of weapons offenses.

Our Kansas City No Violence Alliance, KC NoVA, has been a remarkably successful partnership between local, state and federal law enforcement, prosecutors, and social services. It’s a focused deterrence program that targets our city’s most violent offenders while offering services to those on the fringes of criminal networks. It has taken murderers off the streets and given assistance ranging from literacy courses to substance abuse treatment to nearly 100 people. But it is built on partnerships with federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors who enforce gun laws.

Working with federal partners to enforce gun laws is one of the most effective tools in our toolbox for preventing violent crime and homicides. I hope we can continue to do so.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Mayor: Bill violates a solemn oath, undermines a sacred freedom

Below is the text of an editorial written by Kansas City Mayor Sly James and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay discussing a bill that, if approved, could make our cities substantially more dangerous. I'm accompanying Mayor James to Jefferson City today to support him in his effort to stand against House Bill 1439. I ask that you contact your legislator to do the same.

Here is the editorial:

We are the mayors of Missouri’s two largest cities – Kansas City and St. Louis. We represent more than one out of every eight Missourians. Our communities are the centers of metropolitan regions that constitute Missouri’s two greatest economic powerhouses.

We have taken solemn oaths of office. We have pledged to support the Constitution of the United States and to faithfully discharge the duties of our offices.

These duties mainly have to do with keeping our communities safe and well, being good stewards of public resources, working to preserve and create good jobs, rewarding business innovation, meeting the educational needs and creating opportunities for our children, celebrating and promoting our rich cultural, architectural, historical and artistic resources, keeping an eye out for our seniors and extending a helping hand to those in need, welcoming new immigrants, and otherwise working toward just and vibrant and sustainable communities that embrace diversity and welcome and create opportunity for all.
A divided Missouri House of Representatives recently passed House Bill 1439. It purports to “preserve” rights to carry and keep firearms. The Missouri and United States constitutions speak to such rights. They are legitimate subjects of legislative attention and public debate. The same holds true for the authority and responsibilities of our federal and state governments. Reasonable people can differ on questions of the limits and scope of the authority of each, and which is best suited to meet what public responsibilities. Americans have been debating these issues since the dawn of our republic.

House Bill 1439 moves well beyond the boundary of reasonable debate. It is an affront to our communities. It is an embarrassment to the State of Missouri.

Simply put, House Bill 1439 represents a reckless attempt by narrow ideological interests to coerce us and other law abiding local officials into violating our oaths of office. The bill, if enacted, would do little to preserve legitimate gun ownership rights. It would do much to undermine the freedom of the people we represent and to threaten the stability of the communities we serve.

We will not be coerced.

House Bill 1439 seeks to intimidate local officials into disregarding settled interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, and violating federal acts, laws, executive orders, administrative orders, court orders, rules, regulations, statutes or ordinances.

We will not be intimidated.

House Bill 1439 would make it illegal for our police officers and local prosecutors to work with federal agencies in efforts to reduce gun violence in our cities. State lawmakers would empower street thugs and highway snipers, authorizing them to file lawsuits and recover attorneys’ fees against police and prosecutors who work with federal authorities to keep our communities safe.

We will defend our police and prosecutors and federal partners. We will not cower to political extremists. We will keep our communities safe.

Missouri lawmakers also take an oath of office. They solemnly swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States. A violation of their oath forever disqualifies them from “holding any office of trust or profit in this state.”

We intend to abide by our oaths. We expect Missouri’s lawmakers to abide by theirs.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Twelve roadway shootings are now linked, and reward increases to $10,000


Police now have positively linked 12 shooting incidents that have taken place recently on roadways around the metropolitan area. No new similar shootings have taken place since April 6.

Additionally, the reward for information leading to an arrest in the incidents has increased to up to $10,000, thanks to additional funds from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The number of reports of recent roadway shootings continues to fluctuate as police investigate additional incidents and rule out others. Police announced Monday a pattern in which cars have been fired at on area highways and roads. The majority were in Kansas City, but others took place in Blue Springs, Lee’s Summit and Leawood. Three people have been hit with bullets, and their injuries were not life-threatening.

Investigators are not releasing any suspect or suspect vehicle information because they do not want to provide misinformation, nor do they want the public to focus too closely on a specific type of vehicle or person. Investigators do not want to rule out any possibilities.

Officers are increasing their presence in the areas of the shootings. Motorists should remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious activity by calling 911. The sooner police are notified, the higher the probability they can apprehend the suspect(s).

Kansas City Police are very appreciative of the assistance from their partners from other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

But with all the investigative manpower and technology being used, tips from the public remain one of the best resources in solving these crimes. The aforementioned reward of up to $10,000 now is available for information leading to an arrest in this case, thanks to the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers, FBI and ATF. Anyone with information should call 816-474-TIPS (8477). Tips also may be submitted electronically, or by texting TIP452 and your information to 274637 (CRIMES). All information is anonymous.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Reported incidents of vehicles shot on area roadways fluctuate as investigation continues


The number of reports of recent roadway shootings continues to fluctuate as police investigate additional incidents and rule out others. No new shootings have been reported since Sunday night, April 6.

Police announced Monday that there had been 13 incidents between March 8 and April 6 of cars being fired at on area highways and roads, 10 of which have occurred in Kansas City, Mo. The others took place in Blue Springs, Lee’s Summit and Leawood. Three people have been hit with bullets, and their injuries were not life-threatening.

After police released this information, several more people came forward to report incidents that may be part of the pattern. Meanwhile, investigators may rule out other incidents as not being connected. Additionally, analysts are looking back at calls of shots fired on area roadways that took place prior to March 8 to see if any more may be related. Therefore, the number of incidents remains in flux.

Police have linked several of the shootings but are not releasing by what means to protect the integrity of the investigation. Investigators are not releasing any suspect or suspect vehicle information. Victims and witnesses have provided inconsistent statements, so police do not want to provide misinformation, nor do they want the public to focus too closely on a specific type of vehicle or person. Investigators do not want to rule out any possibilities.

Officers are increasing their presence in the areas of the shootings. Motorists should remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious activity by calling 911. The sooner police are notified, the higher the probability they can apprehend the suspect(s).

Kansas City Police are very appreciative of the assistance their partners from other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

A reward of up to $7,000 now is available for information leading to an arrest in this case, thanks to the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Anyone with information should call 816-474-TIPS (8477). Tips also may be submitted electronically at, or by texting TIP452 and your information to 274637 (CRIMES). All information is anonymous.

As of 11 a.m. today, April 9, Crime Stoppers has received 28 tips related to this case.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Police announce changes to combat violent crime


The Kansas City Missouri Police Department has made numerous changes recently to combat violent crime.

Chief Darryl Forté has moved more than 40 people from units across the department into the Violent Crimes Division to reduce violent crime and hold accountable those who perpetrate it. The changes are designed to build community relationships, provide more intelligence and information about those who commit violent crimes, increase the arrest and prosecution of prolific criminals, predict and prevent violent crime, and increase departmental communication and efficiency.

The Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA), which also recently moved under the Violent Crimes Division, is working with patrol officers and detectives from throughout the department to ramp up its efforts to identify criminals and the groups or gangs with which they associate. Quarterly, NoVA calls in members of these groups and notifies them that if a violent act takes place among their associates, the full force of law enforcement will be on the members of their group. At their last quarterly meeting, police identified several hundred people involved in violent criminal activity in more than 35 groups.

Chief Forté has assigned 28 uniformed personnel to the Violent Crime Enforcement Unit (formerly known as the Area Command Unit), another new part of the Violent Crimes Division. This is the first time in memory such a large contingent of uniformed personnel has been moved to combat violent crime in an investigative element. This unit serves as the Violent Crime Division’s enforcement arm. Should an act of violence take place involving one of the identified groups, Violent Crime Enforcement Unit officers will enhance their enforcement activities against that group’s members with everything from minor ordinance violations to federal cases. This already took place in the first quarter of 2014 when a homicide occurred within one of the identified criminal groups. Violent Crime Enforcement Unit officers, along with the Narcotics and Vice Division and their federal partners, effectively dismantled the group by arresting its members on multiple federal firearms and narcotics trafficking charges.

The Fugitive Apprehension and Arraignment Unit also moved under the Violent Crimes Enforcement Unit so all elements tracking down violent criminals will be in the same chain of command.

A new Violent Crime Administrative Squad within the Enforcement Unit will handle the majority of federal cases regarding felons in possession of firearms and other weapons violations. The Robbery Unit previously handled those cases. This will lighten the Robbery Unit’s caseload, allowing for more thorough robbery investigations. Likewise, detectives on the Administrative Squad will be able to dig deeper into federal firearm violation cases to uncover possible trafficking rings and the violent crime that surrounds them.

On the advice of experts in academia and law enforcement, Chief Forté and Violent Crimes Division Major Ronald Fletcher also have created a Violent Crimes Intelligence Squad. Incorporating experienced gang, homicide and narcotics detectives, this group will work openly (not under-cover) to gather information from the community and patrol officers about gang/group feuds, retaliations and trends. With the help of the Law Enforcement Resource Center, this information will be analyzed and distributed department-wide from homicide detectives to street-level officers. The goal is to prevent violent crimes among gangs and groups before it takes place.

KC NoVA also has provided numerous social services to those who seek a way out of the criminal lifestyle. The people with whom they’ve worked have been identified as being 100 times more likely to be a murder victim than the average Kansas City resident. KC NoVA’s Social Services component has assessed 98 clients as of March 21, 2014. In partnership with numerous community resources, they have provided 29 clients with substance abuse treatment, 18 with employment assistance, 14 with housing services and many others with services ranging from anger management courses to mental health treatment. Many clients cannot read or write, and 10 have received literacy and education assistance.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Legislative remedies are needed to address gun violence

The below, which I wrote with Mayor Sly James, also is published as an As I See It column in today's Kansas City Star:

We often are asked what we’re doing to combat violent crime, and why we seem to have more than other cities of similar size. We think that is a fair question and want to assure the community that we are doing everything in our power to stop the bloodshed.  Our long-term efforts range from the Turn the Page KC third grade reading initiative, to the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KCNoVA), a program with local, state and federal partners that targets the city’s most violent offenders for aggressive prosecution and offers minor offenders social services so they can change their ways.

But there are things beyond our power that would significantly reduce violent crime in Kansas City. We stand united in our conviction that something must be done to address the issue of illegal guns. Of the 106 homicides in our city last year, 90 were committed with a handgun. We can’t alleviate the issue of gun violence until we address the issue of people who have guns that shouldn’t, and that is something that must be done in the Missouri Legislature.  To that end, we applaud the efforts of Representative Brandon Ellington, who filed House Bill 2159 last week.

House Bill 2159 addresses two badly needed legislative remedies that have proven remarkably effective in reducing gun violence in other cities nationwide: universal background checks and mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns. These provisions promote responsible gun ownership by law-abiding residents while preventing firearms from falling into the hands of those who would use them to hurt or kill others.

Did you know that currently either of us could meet you in a parking lot and legally sell you a gun with no record of the transaction and no background check required at all? Or you could go to a gun show and do the very same? A study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research published in last month’s Journal of Urban Health found the 2007 repeal of the Missouri law requiring a background check on all firearm purchases has contributed to an additional 55 to 63 murders each year from 2008 to 2012. We’d venture to say most of those occurred in Kansas City and St. Louis (another city plagued by gun violence disproportional to its population). There is a clear correlation, and states that have universal background checks have fewer homicides. It just makes sense. Multiple studies have shown between 85 and 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks, including 74 percent of National Rifle Association members.

Mandatory reporting of lost or stolen firearms is another tool that could reduce our city’s gun violence. This deters gun trafficking and can help solve crimes. Police may trace a gun used in a crime to its original owner, but that person can claim it was stolen to hide his or her involvement in the crime or in a gun trafficking scheme. 

Chicago implemented a mandatory stolen firearm reporting law last year and watched its previously record-breaking homicide numbers plummet to the lowest level in 50 years.

Legislation like this would do so much to make Missouri’s metropolitan areas safer.

A large focus of legislative efforts pertaining to guns has been the unconstitutional Senate Bill 613. That bill would severely undermine the ability to solve and prevent crimes and seeks to nullify all federal gun laws in Missouri. Although the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause prevents this, and it was vetoed last year, legislators continue to push it through with little concern for the dangerous impact it will have on cities. A provision of SB 613 would make it a crime for anyone to enforce federal gun laws. This would essentially require Kansas City Police to arrest the FBI, ATF and other federal agents with whom they work every day. This legislation would destroy KC NoVA. It could stop the federal prosecution of felons in possession of firearms, which has put so many violent offenders behind bars over the years. It would halt the investigation and prosecution of hundreds of cases, leaving violent criminals on the streets. We cannot emphasize enough how damaging and dangerous this law would be if passed, and we urge residents to reach out to their legislators to ask them to stop it and support House Bill 2159 instead.

We vow to work together to reduce gun violence in Kansas City. But we need the help of the Missouri Legislature to make a significant impact on the safety of our community.