Kansas City Mayor Sly James talks gun checkpoints

KANSAS CITY, Missouri - Kansas City's mayor wants to arm police with greater ability to seize illegal guns. To do so, Mayor Sly James is asking taxpayers one question.

"If the police were to use their authority to stop vehicles and look for guns in the areas where guns are most likely to kill people, would you support that or would you say that they were racist because they were spending a lot of time in black or Latino communities," James asked during a city business session last week.

"If they want to look for guns, I got no problem with it at all," James Green said.

Near 17th and Kansas, Green watched police investigate a shooting. Officers found a man dead inside a car hit by bullets. 10 months ago, frequent gunfire forced Green to move out his Kansas City home. It drives Demetra Fanning to escort her five kids wherever they go.

"(It's) because you never know what's going to go on, who's going to start shooting," Fanning said. "You know, you do have to be very cautious in the neighborhoods that we are in."

"I grew up in the community and I know it well," said Paula Fairley. "But, at the same time, I (am) scared because I don't know who has a gun."

"I'm fed up with (gun violence)," Green said. "I just lost a sister-in-law last year, a mother of four, all because of senseless killing."

Twent years ago, too much gun violence led to the Kansas City Gun Experiment. Kansas City police, armed with a Bureau of Justice grant, selected an 80-block gun crime hotspot on the city's east side. The area had a homicide rate 20 times higher than the national average, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Using heavy, targeted patrols for 29 weeks, police saw gun crime in the target area drop 49 percent. Homicides dropped 67 percent. With recent violence forcing city council to tighten youth curfews, police sources want to experiment again.

"It's one thing to say we want things to stop," said James last Thursday when asked about his suggestion. "It's another thing to say we're willing to do what's necessary to stop it."

Like their mayor, several urban core taxpayers are willing to explore.

"I'm tired and want (police) to do whatever it takes to get (illegal) guns off the street," Fairley said.

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