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“Uniquely American Hell”: Kansas City Shooting Highlights Missouri’s Pro-Gun Laws in “Pro-Life” State

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In the first 46 days of 2024, there have been 49 mass shootings in the United States — over one per day. In total, almost 5,000 people have died from gun violence this year, including Elizabeth “Lisa” Lopez-Galvan, a radio host and mother of two who was shot and killed Wednesday at a rally held after the Super Bowl victory parade in Kansas City, Missouri. Twenty-two others were wounded, many of them children, when the shooting broke out near the end of the rally. Missouri has some of the weakest gun control laws in the country, with no universal background checks, no assault weapon restrictions, no ban on large-capacity magazines, no waiting periods to purchase a gun and no domestic violence gun laws. “This, unfortunately, is not surprising,” says Missouri-born activist and host of the Undistracted podcast, Brittany Packnett Cunningham. Last year, Kansas City set a new high for gun violence, and the city has one of the country’s highest murder rates. Packnett Cunningham traces this violence to the influence of the powerful gun lobby, and calls on lawmakers to refuse funding from pro-gun groups like the NRA.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Police in Kansas City, Missouri, say it was a “dispute between several people” that led to the mass shooting at Wednesday’s Super Bowl victory parade. One person was killed, the popular community radio host from KKFI, Lisa Lopez-Galvan, who was a mother of two. At least 22 people were wounded, about half of them children. Kids in Kansas City had the day off from school to attend the parade.

The motive for the shooting spree is still, quote, “actively being investigated,” unquote. No one has yet been charged. Police initially detained three people, including two minors. The adult was reportedly released.

Witnesses described the chaos at the parade in an interview with CBS News.

AUSTIN PRITCHETT: You hear the gunshots, and, you know, initially, in my head, I was like, “Oh, you know, fireworks.” But then it clicked. Yeah, I was in the military, so then it immediately clicked. I was like, “Oh, no, that’s gunshots.” And I was like, “Oh, gunshots.” And I looked —

ASTER BUBOLZ: We both looked at each other and ran towards —

AUSTIN PRITCHETT: And, yeah, we looked down, and you could see the crowd start to run away. And then we saw people start to drop to — sorry. We saw people drop to the ground. And it was just a surreal event.

AMY GOODMAN: In the first 46 days of this year, there have been 49 mass shootings in the United States. Almost 5,000 people have died from gun violence this year already, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Missouri has some of the weakest gun control laws in the country, with no universal background checks, no assault weapon restrictions, no ban on large-capacity magazines, no waiting periods to purchase a gun and no domestic violence gun laws. Last year, Kansas City set a new high for gun violence, and the city has one of the country’s highest murder rates.

Residents held a vigil Thursday night.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS FAN: You’ve got to protect us. I’m scared as hell! I don’t want to go to any more events if this kind of thing is going to happen.

PASTOR SHAWN SMITH: Lord, we’re hurt. We’re saddened. We’re angry. We’re confused and seemingly lost.

MAYOR PRO TEM RYANA PARKS-SHAW: Because we’re all hurting in our own way. We’re all grieving in some way. In the face of darkness, our resilience will shine brightly. Remember that we are stronger than this moment of despair.

AMY GOODMAN: That last voice was Kansas City Mayor Pro Tem Ryana Parks-Shaw, who became the first Black woman appointed to the position last year.

For more, we’re joined by Brittany Packnett Cunningham, an activist who’s originally from Missouri, host and executive producer of the podcast Undistracted, joining us now from Washington, D.C.

Brittany, welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. If you can respond to what happened in your home state and talk about the gun laws of Missouri?

BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM: Well, Missouri is a state where, unfortunately, pregnant people are not allowed to have any autonomy over their bodies, and yet we don’t trust those folks to make decisions about their bodies, but we do trust folks to be able to purchase a gun without a permit and wield it almost anywhere. This is what happens when we continue to see a legacy, a very long legacy in Missouri, of a Republican Party that is more concerned with protecting themselves in the rural areas, in the mostly white areas, from those of us in the so-called urban cores, who are most often Black, than they are actually about the safety of all of their constituents across the state. So, this, unfortunately, is not surprising. As you’ve said, we’ve had over 46 mass shootings in America, and far more community violence every single day. And as my friend Shannon Watts says, what we saw happen in Kansas City was a uniquely American hell.

AMY GOODMAN: So, if you can talk specifically about Missouri and these laws, whether it comes to people who have been involved in domestic violence getting guns, whether it has to do with being able to enforce any of the weak gun laws that they already have, Brittany?

BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM: Absolutely. So, the gun laws in Missouri place Missouri at number 48 on the Gabby Giffords scale in terms of the quality of gun control laws. That’s 48 out of 50. There’s not much worse the state could be doing. And that is because of efforts like the current one, a bill in the state Legislature right now that wants to allow people to open carry on public transportation and in houses of worship, adding to the already long list of where unpermitted people, who had no wait time, who could buy a gun through a gun show loophole, can wield these weapons, at the danger of often children and young people who are just trying to enjoy their day, as we saw at the parade.

These kinds of laws in Missouri are expansive, because, as you say, they don’t even restrict people who have been convicted or charged with intimate partner violence or domestic violence, and we know that this is often where we see gun violence. There’s also a great incidence of suicide by gun in — in Missouri, rather. And that’s not even taken into account. Often we hear Republicans talk about the mental health crisis and that being the real culprit in the gun violence epidemic in America. And yet, in Missouri, we see that if you have been seen by a court to not be mentally incompetent, that you, too, can restore your gun rights. So, none of the math is mathing. None of these things are adding up from a party that claims to value life and clearly devalues life when it comes to its permissive and pervasive gun laws.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s talk about the comparisons you make between the very loose gun laws in Missouri and why you feel it’s important to compare that to reproductive rights laws and how people are treated when it comes to issues like abortion.

BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM: Well, I think it’s important, because for decades now the Republican Party has been presenting themself as the party of family values, that they believe deeply in the sanctity of life. Well, if we really look at history, we know that the opposite is true. We know that the so-called Christian right’s fight against abortion rights is actually rooted in the fact that they lost their fight to preserve segregation in America, and they realized that, politically, they needed more numbers. So they got together with people who don’t believe in healthcare and other religious — who don’t believe in birth control, rather, and other religious backgrounds to create those numbers and to start a 50-year campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade, which, unfortunately, has been successful.

You mirror that supposed belief in the sanctity of life against gun laws that are not only allowing for the proliferation of guns, but are very clearly causing catastrophe and chaos in the streets of days that are supposed to be a day of celebration, and the hypocrisy is apparent. So, this has never actually been about the sanctity of life. It’s never actually been about family values. And we constantly are calling out that segregation — that hypocrisy, rather. But one thing is clear to me, that that hypocrisy doesn’t matter to the GOP, that they have no shame about that.

So, what we have to do is make it absolutely disqualifying, if you are going to run for office, to accept any money whatsoever from the gun lobby and to be someone who is proving yourself to purport and push these kinds of lax gun laws at all costs. That should not be allowed in any state legislature, at any governor’s mansion, at the federal level, at the local level. Those kinds of beliefs, that kind of donation should be disqualifying from the work that our public officials and public servants are supposed to be doing.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the NRA’s influence on the governor, Mike Parson, on senator, for example, from Missouri, Josh Hawley?

BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM: Absolutely. You know, Mike Parson’s legacy, unfortunately, is one of cowardly obedience, that he has fallen in line with all of the beats that the Missouri GOP has forced him into and has been doing for a long time. So there has been a long line of Missouri governors, Missouri senators that have followed the beat of this drum. That is Roy Blunt, who preceded Josh Hawley in the Senate. He was one of the top recipients of NRA money during almost the entirety of his Senate career. Josh Hawley, of course, who followed him and who famously ran from the violence that he stoked, just like Mike Parson did at the parade that day — Josh Hawley has received $1.4 million from the NRA. So, Mike Parson, Josh Hawley, Roy Blunt and so many others are simply falling in line. Now, Mike Parson can’t run for governor again, so he’s there to keep the status quo in place until the GOP brings in the next person to do exactly the same. And unfortunately, these kinds of influences and that kind of money will continue to pervade not just Missouri, but the entire country, if we allow it to.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, the terrible loss of the KKFI programmer, the well-known DJ, Lisa Galvan. She was a DJ on KKFI, the community radio station in Kansas City, KKFI well known for giving voice to grassroots activism, to communities. The fact that she is the death as a result of this mass shooting that took place in Kansas City during the Super Bowl parade?

BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM: It’s absolutely heartbreaking. I mean, it leaves a massive hole in the city, because her listeners, her audience, that community was really held together by so much of what she talked about, so much of what she communicated, the kind of information that she was intentional about sharing, despite the fact that it would push against the status quo. And those are the kind of voices that continue to be cut down in this gun violence epidemic.

You know, it strikes me that that mass shooting was on the anniversary of the Parkland shooting, which means that we’re literally layering gun violence anniversaries on top of one another. That is that uniquely American hell. It hit Kansas City. It hit her. And it hit the entire community and will continue to reverberate until something is done about it.

There were 800 uniformed law enforcement officers at that parade. And because police are only ever set up to respond to violence after it’s happened, they did not actually prevent that tragedy, despite their massive presence.

So we have to take a serious look at what true public safety from the ground up looks like, instead of overpolicing from the top down. And part of that has to be ensuring that the flow of guns into our communities is stopped. It is absolutely the guns. And everybody who wants to make it about something else is missing the point entirely.

AMY GOODMAN: Brittany Packnett Cunningham, activist, host and executive producer of the podcast Undistracted, from Missouri.

You mentioned Parkland. We’re going to go right now to the anniversary of the Parkland high school shooting. We’ll speak with Manny Oliver, the father of Guac, one of the 17 killed six years ago on Valentine’s Day. Stay with us.

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