Andrea Garcia’s family was impacted by gun violence 9 years old this month, when her brother was killed in a drive-by shooting. Andrea Garcia hopes that people will stop and think about the number of young people whose lives are being lost daily. “My brother John Paul Garcia was a musician. We are losing talented people. What breaks my heart...can you imagine if we lost people who have done great things in our neighborhoods.”



BY DEBRA DeCOSTER
IN-DEPTH REPORT


People fed up with the gun violence in Kansas City metropolitan area filled the Penn Valley Education Center in Kansas City, Missouri and demanded action to stop the senseless killings in their neighborhoods.

“Are you disgusted? Yes! But being disgusted is not enough. Our children are scared. We can’t remain quiet or passive that this is going on. We have to take action and we cannot quit,” said Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II.

Last week Congressman Cleaver, Mayor Quinton Lucas, Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith and several gun violence prevention groups joined together to call for an end to gun violence in the city.

Andrea Garcia lost her brother John Paul Garcia nine years ago on August 8 to gun violence. She wasn’t aware that Congressman Cleaver held a community meeting to discuss action to stop the gun violence.

She wants community and government leaders to know the issue of gun violence is a serious topic that needs to be addressed now and not later. She wants to see an on-going conversation about gun violence happen year round and not just when a mass shooting happens in the country.

“When you lose a family member to homicide, it affects the family for generations. This subject needs to be treated as an emergency, we can’t continue to push it back year after year, summer after summer. We just can’t afford it, our families can’t afford it, our children can not afford it,” said Garcia.

Kansas City, Missouri Police Chief Rick Smith addressed the packed auditorium that as of last Wednesday, August 7 there had been 87 homicides in Kansas City. Nine more homicides than last year on the same date. Also, on August 7, 2019, 309 people had been shot in Kansas City.

“Those are sobering facts,” said Chief Smith.

The TIPS reward in Kansas City has been recently raised to $25,000 for information leading to an arrest in a homicide case. Chief Smith stated at the meeting, “several hours ago we paid our first tip.”

In Missouri anyone 19 years of age or older can carry a concealed weapon without any training or a license, according to Chief Smith, but he went on to say, ‘to go hunting in the state you need training and a license.’

Jean Peters Baker, Jackson County Prosecutor, sees the broken families in the courtroom after violence have touched their lives.

“I am mad! I am not hopeless. The day I become hopeless will be the day I turn the baton over to someone else. You deserve leaders who are not hopeless. This problem is not hopeless. We must demand more of our leaders. Jefferson City has passed over the last 15 years a series of laws that hampered my life and my work as a prosecutor. These laws were not initiated, they were not enacted by prosecutors to have these changes. No prosecutor in the state of Missouri asked for Stand Your Ground law. Why do we have it, why did that happen?” said Peters Baker.

Community leaders and organizations taking a stand to stop the gun violence asked people to use their voices and send a message to their state senators in Jefferson City, Missouri that they want better gun laws.

“Our voices need to be heard. I don’t want to hear more tragedies. I don’t want to hear more tears. I don’t want to hear that our teenagers growing up here are used to hearing gun shots, used to losing loved ones to violence. We need fewer people in this city picking up the guns and more people showing love in our community,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas.

According to Congressman Cleaver, the second amendment will not change.

“There are fraudulent statements out there that we are going to take everyone’s guns. No one is going to take anybody guns in the country. If you want to kill Bambi or Bambi’s family, you don’t need an assault weapon,” he said.

Cleaver has pushed for a bill that would improve the background checks on individuals purchasing a gun at gun shows.

“There are 300 million Americans, almost all of whom support background checks and one American is holding it up. We need a bill that if someone is arrested for domestic violence, then they can’t own a gun,” he stated.

Peters Baker spoke out that people in Missouri are not bad people, they are not immoral people, they are good people who deserve better legislation.

“It is not an accident that we are in this position, it is because we have deregulated weapons to a point that it is dangerous here,” she said.

Garcia hopes that people will stop and think about the number of young people whose lives are being lost daily. Stop and think about if those people could have lived their lives, what talent would they have brought to their neighborhoods and to the community.

“My brother was a musician. We are losing talented people. What breaks my heart…can you imagine if we lost people who have done great things in our neighborhoods. Let’s think about Paul Briones, he has done fundraisers and helped in his community, could you imagine if something happened in Paul’s young life and he wasn’t here. Everything he has done would not have happened his greatness would have been stopped. What if Chato Villalobos never became a police officer, what if he had been taken in a drive by shooting as a young child. What if people are shot down before they walk into their greatness? They are not given the opportunity to grow old,” said Garcia.

Mayor Quinton Lucas asked the crowd how we can figure out progress in science and education, but the smartest people are not standing up and saying we need to make a difference with gun violence.

“We are seeing nothing less than a mass genocide in our community. Nothing short of a devaluation of lives, particularly black lives. What we see in our communities year after year are people trying to tell us that it doesn’t need to change. I am saying it does,” he stated. Rosalyn Temple, Mothers in Charge posed a question for the community.

“Why are we so angry with one another?” Karen Rogers, Moms Demand Action, stood up and asked the community to join their organization in the fight against guns and the killing of young lives.

“It breaks my heart to see so many people affected. I am a parent and my son was about to start Kindergarten when Sandy Hook happened. We should all be free to live without fear of being shot. Once again, we see mass shootings that grab media attention, but gun violence daily tears apart the lives of Americans. This is a crisis that demands urgent action,” said Rogers.

Garcia knows firsthand the vicious cycle of violence. She knows how a bullet can kill but also how that bullet tears a family and leaves a gaping hole, a generation of family lost. When her brother John Paul died, he left behind a young son and daughter and she lost her best friend.

“I can’t ever explain who their dad was. I can tell them stories about his favorite movies, foods, what he liked to do, but they are growing up without their father. These kids are growing up with a piece of their heart incomplete,” said Garcia.