Knee-jerk calls to get rid of guns won’t work. If the right compromises, will the left? | Opinion

Shootings such as what happened at the Chiefs Super Bowl parade stir up debate about guns, with everyone seeing evidence supporting their own view — frankly, some of the opinion columns seemed as if they were prewritten by authors waiting for just this kind of a tragedy. But while policing and public safety are important debates, we need to do a better job of thinking them through.

As an example of just such a good job, look no further than the 2022 KCPT documentary “The Gun Conundrum.” Filmmaker Michael Price reminds us there are no easy answers to Kansas City’s homicide rate as he works to balance the issue of growing homicides with the desire by many to arm themselves. Notable in the film: how quickly confrontations escalate. Young men who sense they are in danger are quick to fire first, and security camera videos show how fast it all happens. Carrying a gun seems completely rational if you might not survive an attempt to de-escalate.

For those who advocate that we just get rid of guns, I commend to you a “open rant” by Charles C. W. Cooke of National Review

and urge you to get started — you have a great deal of work ahead.

The rest of us will find agreement where we can.

On Feb. 22, KCMO radio host Pete Mundo had a very good discussion on the matter of guns with Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas. Starting at about the 10:09 mark, Lucas makes the point that he wants police to have more tools to interdict minors — and maybe others — carrying guns. Many agree with him, including the police.

Mundo pointed out that those tools — such as the so-called police “stop and frisk” policy — are hot-button issues now labeled as racial profiling. Of the 182 homicides committed in 2023, 55% of the suspects as well as 65% of the victims were Bmen. If Kansas City wants to be more aggressive in policing, we need to come to terms with the fact that the focus of that policing will not fall on everyone equally — just as the benefit will not fall on everyone equally.

Prosecutors need support as well. While there will always be anecdotes of light sentences or prosecutions lost, in the aggregate, Jackson County is outperforming the rest of Missouri. The average sentence for homicide in Jackson County was 27.6 years in 2023, up from 23.3 years in 2019. (It’s 25.5 years statewide.)

Actions by the Missouri legislature change criminal justice as well. After the “stand your ground” law was adopted in 2016, prosecutors dismiss more cases than they would like because of self-defense claims. Anyone involved in a drug deal-related shooting, for example, has a pretty compelling case that they feared for their life. Lower legal standards give them the chance to get away with it.

If conservative Missouri legislators were willing to repeal self-defense standards and modify open carry laws, would progressives or liberals be willing to step up?

Hard decisions and hard consequences aren’t new. Liberals today would never champion the 1994 crime bill signed by President Bill Clinton, even though it was supported by Black leaders at the time. Slate points out that Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel supported the bill that created the crack cocaine sentencing disparity that President Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1986.

Now? President Joe Biden can’t shuffle away fast enough from his support of those two bills. Progressives nationwide called for defunding the police and actually attempted it in Kansas City. Left-leaning media are eager to treat every police shooting as an unindicted murder.

So before we engage in our next gun debate, let’s stop demanding others change their views and start wondering which of our own views we’re willing to compromise. Maybe all of us need to de-escalate.

Patrick Tuohey is co-founder of Better Cities Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit focused on municipal policy solutions, and a senior fellow at the Show-Me Institute, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to Missouri state policy work.