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Kansas City-area lawmakers, students weigh in on gun laws

Posted at 7:49 PM, Sep 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-09 20:55:38-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This week marked the start of school for Uvalde, Texas, students — their first time stepping inside a school since a mass shooting there killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers.

Meanwhile, here at home, school safety is on our students' minds, perhaps more than we realize.

KSHB 41 sat down with a group of local students and recent graduates to discuss everything from how active shooter drills made them feel, to their fears of being the next school to make headlines.

First, we took those fears to a psychologist to get her advice on how to listen to our children's fears and focus on the things that are being done to keep them safe.

Now, as a continuation of that conversation, KSHB 41 I-Team investigator Caitlin Knute takes their suggestions for safety to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

This includes Kansas Rep. Jo Ella Hoye, a democrat who says she's a registered gun owner, and a Rep. Tim Johnson, a republican who's both a former police chief and teacher.

KSHB 41 asked them all to weigh in on background checks, raising the age to buy firearms and bans on assault weapons.

Hoye: “I’m very impressed by the knowledge and sensibility that these young people have, and it’s very disheartening that we are at a place in this country where this has to be such a constant thing on our kids minds."

Rachel, college graduate:  “One common sense gun violence prevention legislation that I'd like to see done immediately is background checks. I don't think anyone should be able to go and purchase a gun within the matter of 20 minutes and walk out and just have one.”

Hoye: "These young folks are exactly right that if you’re going to purchase a firearm, you need to go through a background check."

Johnson: “The background checks is clearly not an issue. I believe anybody that knows weapons, we want those, both law-enforcement, we need to know who’s getting them. Clearly the background checks need to be completed."

Rachel: "I also think that we should raise age to purchase a gun to 21. Because as we've seen lots of school shootings across the country, oftentimes, they're 17, 18, 19-year-olds that go into the schools and kill so many people. “

Hoye: “But, last year in Kansas, we made it so that 18, 19 and 20-year-olds can carry hidden loaded handguns into more public places where they couldn’t before, they were able to get a concealed carry permit.”

Rachel: “I'd also like to see a ban on assault weapons, I don't think people should be able to have a weapon that could kill 17 people in the matter of five minutes, like in Parkland."

Johnson: “Do we truly need high-capacity magazines in a civilian setting? Probably not. Those are designed for military issues where you need heavy. Probably for hunting you don’t need (it.) If you’re going to have to use a 30 round clip to shoot that deer, you’re in trouble.”

KSHB 41 also asked them about closing gun show loopholes.

Nicholas, college student: “Something that I take up as a mantle with all of this is the gun show loophole. The idea that, just because it's an environment where guns are being shown off, and guns are being sold, the regulations around purchasing that firearm and getting ammunition with it are so significantly less than in any other environment in which you purchase a firearm. And somebody who is 16, 17, and looks old enough, can walk in never show ID, cash on hand.”

Hoye: “A lot of the solutions they’re talking about have gone in the opposite direction in Kansas and in Missouri, they have some of the weakest gun laws in the country.”

Johnson: “As far as the gun shows, I don’t think he understands the regulatory process that is there. No 18-year-old, 17, or 16-year-old is going to walk in without proper ID and buy a firearm.” 

The group also weighed in on increased training.

Luciana, college student: “Yeah, there's absolutely no reason we shouldn't have these. Not restrictions, but these laws in place that make it so that getting a gun shouldn't be easier than getting a car. There should be training, there should be safe storage, there should be licenses.”

Nicholas: “With things like driving, or like wearing a seat belt, we understand, like we're told driving is a privilege. And it makes us okay with the idea of going and taking driver's ed, and learning how to drive safely, and registering our car, and our registry, and getting a license, and all of the associated like bureaucracy that happens.  And because gun ownership, even though it's something that's way more dangerous, is viewed as just this inherent thing, it makes people a lot less willing to go through the proper safety training or have the skills necessary to properly own and operate those kinds of firearms. “

Johnson: “I do believe his issue on training is critical. I would strongly encourage whether it’s young Hunter safety clinic, or if it’s general firearm safety, if your family chooses to have weapons, you need that training for safety purposes, for understanding them, understanding how to keep them safe from small kids. Truly training is important.”

KSHB 41 asked for their take on arming teachers.

Genesis, Former Student: “I understand maybe your intentions are good to give teachers guns, but what if a student gets a hold of that gun?"

Nick: "We are already asking teachers to carry a class, classrooms, have kids' lives in their hands. So, giving them a firearm is just a more explicit way of shirking more responsibility on to them.”

Rachel: "That is something they did not sign up for, and I think we would lose a lot of valuable people in the teaching community if we ask them to do something like that."

Hoye: “I feel like since we have rolled back our laws so far, that it is important to hear from the students about their concerns about arming teachers. I do think it’s possible depending on how the elections go that we will see further proposals to put more guns in K-12 schools.”

Johnson: "No I’m not in favor of arming teachers. If you study the training that they go through here in Kansas, the law-enforcement training Academy, if you go out to Overland Park and see the police academy out there, they go through so many scenarios and psychological evaluations. And clearly a teacher who doesn’t have the time for that kind of training, has no interest, should never be put into that position. You got to want to carry that gun, and you have to feel comfortable, or you shouldn’t carry it. And believe me, I'm a gun nut. But there are places they don’t always belong.”

Caitlin: “As a law maker, is there anything you would like to say now that you’ve had a chance to listen to those things?”

Johnson: “Clearly the educational ability to learn goes up if you feel safe. And if you don’t feel safe in school, you’re not going to learn. So it has to be a priority, either legislative through funding, which isn’t always the answer, but clearly we need to work to provide answers.”