by Laura Fotovich
“I’m not necessarily pro-gun but I’m not anti-gun either. I think the laws should be stricter on how people can obtain a gun legally, but I don’t think outlawing guns is going to help [solve the problem] in America,” said Overland Park, Kansas, resident Emily Butler.
Emily and others I interviewed from my hometown in Olathe, Kansas, and the surrounding area began to think about gun control after the Parkland, Florida shooting that left 17 dead. Guns are extremely common in Kansas, a fact that I learned from a very young age. You simply cannot escape their presence. I remember when I saw a man in Olathe carry a gun into a local barbeque restaurant at lunchtime like it was perfectly normal. The restaurant was busy and others noticed as well. No one said anything, but many looked away uncomfortably.
People in Kansas carry guns for recreational shooting, hunting and looks. “You see a lot more guns out here,” said my father, Larry Fotovich. My dad still lives in our hometown. He remembers when he saw a local man try to bring a gun into a gun-free building. “He got out of his truck and realized he couldn’t go into the post office with a gun on his hip, so he bent down and stuck it under [the seat of his car]. People are rabid about guns in Kansas,” he said.
Since I moved to New York City I haven’t seen any firearms.
Gun laws vary between states, especially between states in different regions of the country. In New York, a license is required for any U.S. citizen (or non-U.S. citizen that is a lawful permanent resident or has a valid alien firearm license) to own a handgun, but a license isn’t necessary to possess a long gun. The New York City laws are stricter, requiring a license to own both a handgun and a long gun. Kansas, on the other hand, allows any citizen above the age of 21 to openly carry a gun without a license.
A problem in Kansas involves people who try to bring guns into gun-free zones. “I had a kid in my school who tried to bring a gun to school. He was in my first hour class. The police got him before he came into school,” said Springhill, Kansas, resident Mary Kate Hale. Growing up in the Midwest helped shape Mary Kate’s opinion on gun laws. “Knowing how many people around me carry guns on their waist or in their car trunk gives me the creeps. It has definitely made my views towards gun control stronger. There is no reason to need to have a gun in public” she added.
Regardless of a person’s views about gun control, the total number of fatalities is fact-based. In 2018 New York totaled an average of four firearm deaths per 100,000 people, while Kansas totaled 13.3 firearm deaths per 100,000 people.
Leawood, Kansas, resident Jack McConathy recounted a story of gun violence in downtown Kansas City. “My aunt’s friend was leaving a bar one night and this car drove past her. A guy rolled down the window and shot her as part of a gang initiation,” he said. “Growing up in the Midwest, gun culture is kind of ingrained into society,” he added.
In some Kansas schools it is legal to conceal and carry firearms. Johnson County Community College, for example, has a concealed carry policy that allows students to carry firearms on campus as long as they cannot be seen.
Emporia, Kansas, resident Dylan Schneider supports concealed carry in Kansas, as long as proper background checks and training are implemented. “As a future teacher I want to make sure every school that I teach in, and every school in the nation, has the means to protect itself against active shooters, because the safety of the children is the top priority,” he said.
Many gun safety advocates think this strategy could be risky for the overall safety of the children. On average, one school shooting occurs every week in the United States and as of June 2018, the United States has suffered a total of 154 mass shootings.