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Senate holds marathon hearing on gun violence, public safety

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — If a terrorist attack took the lives of as many people in the U.S. as those who have been killed by gun violence in Missouri, “we would change all kinds of things,” Kansas City Police Chief Richard Smith told a new Senate committee Monday. 

Smith was one of 20 people called to testify during a marathon hearing before the Interim Committee on Public Safety Monday. It is expected to be the only day for the seven-member body to hold a hearing; the committee will create a report of legislative proposals to curb gun violence to present before the full Senate in January. 

Kansas City Police Chief Richard Smith testifies before the Interim Committee on Public Safety (PROVIDED/HARRISON SWEAZEA).

Law enforcement officials, activists, city officials, doctors, firearm dealers, and more were called before the interim committee. St. Louis and Kansas City, in particular, have grappled with a multitude of gun-related deaths this year. 

“I think this is one of the most important issues facing us at this time,” Smith, who has served as Kansas City’s police chief since 2017, said, adding his city is on pace for about 145 homicides this year. 

“I often say if we had a terrorist attack with this many victims, we would change all kinds of things in this country,” Smith said. “But it seems to be the slow, methodical death of our citizens does not get the same response.” 

Smith said he does not believe there is a “one size fits all” approach to curbing gun violence but values more education, even for law-abiding gun owners. Some of the proposed solutions from witnesses included: 

  • Implementing so-called red flag laws to keep guns away from domestic abusers or those with mental illnesses 
  • Revisiting the new rules from the Missouri Supreme Court changing bond policies that went into effect earlier this year 
  • Allowing police to hold suspects for longer than 24 hours while building a case 
  • Coming up with greater resources for police officers, including when it comes to drug crimes 
  • Creating stronger background checks 
  • Implementing greater protections for witnesses to crimes 

“I think it was really good. People from very diverse backgrounds testified today with lots of years of experience in different fields of expertise,” Republican Sen. Doug Libla, chairman of the committee, told The Missouri Times following the more than six-hour hearing. 

Libla said he expects the committee to gather again to discuss the information heard Monday and come up with a report by mid to late January for the full Senate. 

“This is a very comprehensive issue and is going to take a comprehensive fix. There’s not going to be a real quick solution. It’s very comprehensive,” Libla said. “But we heard a lot of good ideas today.”

“The bottom line is: The committee needs to digest its notes and go from there.” 

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed questions a witness during the Interim Committee on Public Safety hearing (PROVIDED/HARRISON SWEAZEA).

Democratic Sen. Jamilah Nasheed – who was instrumental in the creation of the committee — also left Monday evening feeling confident the hearing “went very well.” 

“We are finding preventative ways to reduce gun violence and policy issues we can implement in a bipartisan manner,” she told The Missouri Times. 

Libla praised the senators, staff, and witnesses for attending the marathon hearing Monday. 

“I appreciate the Senate, staff, and committee members for participating in such an important topic and listening intently and actually engaging the testimony of the witnesses,” he said. 

Other committee members include Republican Sens. Jeanie Riddle, Eric Burlison, and Tony Luetkemeyer along with Democrats Kiki Curls and Brian Williams. Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden does not sit on the committee but attended the hearing.