JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed all but one bill into law this summer, vetoing legislation that would have imposed tougher penalties for people who fire celebratory gunshots.
Back in 2011, bullets fired on the Fourth of July, fell killing 11-year-old Blair Shanahan Lane. Since then, Blair’s mom, Michele Shanahan DeMoss, has been coming to Jefferson City to ask lawmakers to strengthen the state’s law. Earlier this month, the governor rejected legislation that included a measure honoring the Kansas City girl.
Parson tells our Missouri Chief Capitol Bureau Reporter Emily Manley it’s not Blair’s Law, he didn’t agree with. Instead, it was the other provisions in the large crime package.
“The reality of it is, you have to do the right thing sometimes, even when it’s not the most popular thing,” Parson said in an exclusive interview. “Blair’s Law was never the issue.”
After years of pleading for tougher laws, Blair’s mom Michele thought the fight was over.
“I’m ready to look forward to something other than having to testify or having to explain or having to be asked or having to be questioned,” DeMoss said. “I convinced myself we were done when I was on that Senate floor. I convinced myself I was done and that I felt like when I was leaving Jefferson City that day, I was saying goodbye to everybody, like farewell.”
Instead, weeks after the bipartisan legislation was sent to the governor’s desk, Parson vetoed the crime bill.
“It’s because it’s an omnibus bill, it’s not about Blair’s Law, I wish it was, if it was, it would have been an easy one to sign,” said Parson. “Instead of having a law stand on its own, which, I wish we had a law that said every bill should stand on its own, but when you start throwing all these other pieces of legislation on good things, what’s why people think they get things passed.”
An omnibus bill means lawmakers put multiple provisions within one piece of legislation.
Blair’s Law was part of a large package that included removing the salary cap for the Kansas City Police Department for all officers, streamlining the expungement process, compensate people who have been wrongfully convicted and create a restitution system for people whose convictions are overturned.
“I’m not sure why every taxpayer in the state of Missouri is responsible for that, why the state is responsible for it, especially when it was a local crime and a local issue,” Parson said. “If the cities and the counties are part of the process, I’m not sure why it’s up to the state to do that versus why the local levels aren’t part of that solution.”
The bill originally was proposed to increase the penalty for people who are convicted of killed a police dog. The measure is known as “Max’s Law” after the killing of a St. Joseph K-9 officer Max.
DeMoss said she was on vacation with her family when she received the call that the crime bill that contained Blair’s Law was being vetoed.
“I don’t even want to say I was shocked,” DeMoss said. “I felt like since Gov. Parson didn’t have a signing before the Fourth of July. Part of me knew, and I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud.”
It’s been 12 years since DeMoss watched as her 11-year-old daughter, Blair was killed by a stray bullet in Kansas City on the Fourth of July.
DeMoss said the bullet traveled three football fields and hit Blair in the neck, seeing her raise up and then start falling.
Four men were later arrested and charged with shooting a pistol recklessly into a nearby lake. Aaron Sullivan, 50, served a short prison sentence after being charged with manslaughter.
Under Blair’s Law, it would have been a crime of unlawful discharge of a firearm to shoot a gun with criminal negligence within a city’s limits.
During debate on the Senate floor in May, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, said under current law, celebratory gunfire is not a crime because you’re not killing someone intentionally, so it can’t be brought as a homicide offense.
“It’s hard, but for a few weeks in July, it’s harder,” DeMoss said. “It deserves to be a law. People that commit that crime deserve to have a punishment greater than just basically a parking ticket.”
“There’s no doubt about it,” Parson said. “If they [the General Assembly] wants to get it done right off the bat next year, great with me, and send it to my desk.
DeMoss said she’s not angry at the governor. Instead, she’s eager for what is to come.
“I will be there,” DeMoss said holding back tears. “I have said to my husband many times, if I have to walk, I will be there. I trust God’s timing, not my timing.”
DeMoss said she’s already talking with lawmakers about filing Blair’s Law as a standalone bill next session.