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In Kansas City, hope for a Super Bowl victory comes with fear of celebratory gunfire

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes heads for the locker room in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns on Jan. 17, 2021, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Should the Chiefs win the Super Bowl, officials worry about celebratory gunfire in the Kansas City area.

JILL TOYOSHIBA/KANSAS CITY STAR/TNS

By ROBERT A. CRONKLETON | The Kansas City Star | Published: February 6, 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Tribune News Service) — While many in the Kansas City area will be cheering Sunday for the Chiefs to win another Super Bowl, there is one thing that police hope is not repeated this year: people marking the occasion by firing guns into the air.

Last year, police received more than 160 calls to 911 about gunfire between 5 and 10 p.m. Most of those calls were attributed people celebrating the Super Bowl.

“We want people to celebrate responsibly, but they need to be safe,” Sgt. Jacob Becchina, a spokesman for the Kansas City Police Department, said Friday during a news conference outside police headquarters. “It is not safe to shoot a gun off in an unknown direction or up into the air.”

“One of the things we learned last year as we were celebrating is that once again just like around New Year’s and around the Fourth of July, some people unfortunately chose to celebrate by shooting a gun off into the air in an unknown direction.”

For years, ahead of such occasions, police in Kansas City have warned the public of the dangers of celebratory gunfire, sometimes walking door-to-door in neighborhoods where it’s been previously reported.

Shooting a gun off in the city limits is a misdemeanor punishable with a fine up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail, Becchina said.

“That’s at the minimum,” Becchina said. “That’s if it doesn’t hit somebody or hit something and cause major damage, which we know it has a tendency to do.”

When that bullet comes back down, it’s traveling as fast as when it left the barrel of the gun and it will injure or kill someone if it hits them.

Kansas City police will have additional officers working Sunday, Becchina said. The officers will be from all across the department, including the traffic, patrol, tactical and special operations divisions.

“If you see somebody shooting a gun off near your home, as safely as you can call 911 to report that,” Becchina said. “We have gunshot detection software in our city. It tells us where and when and how much. It doesn’t tell us who, what car they got into, which house they came from.”

People are also urged to try to talk others out of firing guns in the air.

“That conversation could save somebody’s life,” Becchina said.

Michele Shanahan-DeMoss, whose 11-year-old daughter Blair Shanahan Lane was killed in 2011 by celebratory gunfire on July 4, spoke at the news conference, urging people to heed the police department’s plea.

“We’re almost 10 years since a bullet that was fired in celebration killed my daughter Blair,” Shanahan-DeMoss said. “It’s irresponsible and reckless. A gun isn’t something that should be used in celebration.”

Also at the news conference, Missouri state Reps. Rory Rowland and Mark Sharp, both Democrats, announced that they have reintroduced “Blair’s Law.”

“What we want to do is curb this behavior by making it much more stringent on people who fire these guns indiscriminately — if they hit someone or don’t hit someone,” Rowland said. “Firearm responsibility is very important and we need people to use firearms in a responsible manner.”

Currently firing a gun indiscriminately is considered a municipal violation, according to Rowland. The bill would make it a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense. A second offense would be a felony.

“The entire intent of this bill is to deter people from shooting their guns in the air,” said Sharp, who added that it’s only a matter of time before someone else is hurt by celebratory gunfire.

“Let’s get the Chiefs to a good win and let’s celebrate the right way,” he said. “Let’s wake up Monday morning knowing that everyone’s safe.”

The additional police assigned to work Sunday will be available for any need that may arise, Becchina said.

“Obviously crowds at gatherings things like Power & Light (entertainment district) or other large gathering places will be smaller this yea due to the COVID restrictions,” he said. “We know that the places that can have people will have whatever people they can and so we’ll be ready to respond to any issues as they come up.”

Grand Boulevard will be closed near the Kansas City Power & Light District and the T-Mobile Center in downtown Kansas City. It is the only traffic closure that Kansas City has planned.

Police will monitor several other areas in the city, including other entertainment districts, for traffic concerns and will respond quickly to any issues.

“We are hopeful that we will be celebrating around about 9 or 10 o’clock another Chiefs’ victory in another Super Bowl,” Becchina said.

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