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Kansas State Collegian

Kansas State Collegian

The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

Chiefs’ rally shooting sparks gun violence discussion

Kansas residents reflect on gun restrictions and mental health following the shooting in Kansas City, Missouri
Riley Scott

The Kansas City Chiefs Rally on Feb. 14 began as a celebration of the Super Bowl victory but ended in a mass shooting leaving one dead and 22 injured. Among those injured by gunshots were nine children. 

According to the Associated Press, two men were arrested and charged with second-degree murder and several weapons counts. The men pulled out guns and began firing shortly after starting an argument. Two juveniles were also arrested on gun-related and resisting arrest charges. 

Kari Burkhart, fifth grade teacher and Dodge City resident, said she attended the Chiefs’ celebration with her daughters. 

“I’ve never seen that many people in one spot in all my life,” Burkhart said. “It really wasn’t so bad at first until it got really, really crowded. You know, I think everybody was just excited to be there. … I literally thought to myself, ‘If somebody started shooting right now, when we were more than wall-to-wall people, that this won’t be good.’”

At a press update, Kansas City Missouri Police Chief Stacey Graves said KCPD was present at the Chiefs’ parade and rally.

“We had over 800 law enforcement officers, Kansas City and other agencies, at the location to keep everyone safe,” Graves said. “Because of bad actors, which were very few, this tragedy occurred.”

Burkhart said KCPD could have taken more preventative measures to avoid the attack.

“The presence of the police were blocking off streets more so than being in and amongst the crowd of people,” Burkhart said. “There’s got to be a way to safeguard everyone that comes out better than they did. Make it free to get in but I don’t know, be more present — eyes, ears. Maybe have metal detectors that everybody has to come through.”

Burkhart said her experience at the Chiefs’ parade will cause her to think twice before attending public events again.

“Never again,” Burkhart said. “I’m never going to attend something like that again. … It really kind of makes me sad that [public events are] going to have to look a lot different now because a couple people ruined it for everybody.”

According to the Gun Violence Archive, Kansas experienced 248 shootings in 2023.

Kansas City, Missouri hit 269 homicides in 2023 according to data compiled by the Kansas City Star — the deadliest year in the city’s history. According to KCPD, 170 involved firearms.

The Chiefs’ rally shooting reinvigorated debate on gun violence in Kansas City and gun laws throughout Kansas.

Brad Hulshof, K-State College Republicans president, said police should be more present in parts of the city. 

“I’m from there, I know how it is,” Hulshof said. “I’ve been to Kansas City plenty of times. Clearly there’s a criminal problem, there’s a huge gang violence problem that needs to be addressed, because some of these neighborhoods are under-policed.”

Kelm Lear, K-State Young Democrats president, said police respond the best they can, and more should be done to prevent gun violence. 

“I think the news reported that there were about 800 police officers on duty at that parade,” Lear said. “And so it’s not like there weren’t enough officers out there patrolling and making sure people are safe while they celebrate the Super Bowl victory. When it comes to what police can do in response to gun violence, it’s reactive, you know, the violence has already happened. The police are responding to that. What we need to focus on is preventative measures so that gun violence doesn’t happen in the first place.” 

Lear said restrictions on who can obtain a gun would help prevent gun violence. 

“That wouldn’t be able to happen unless we expanded things like universal background checks and red flag laws and made those records accessible across cities, across counties, across states,” Lear said. 

Hulshof said some restrictions on gun rights are reasonable, such as preventing felons from obtaining firearms, but doesn’t want restrictions to prevent law-abiding residents from exercising the Second Amendment.  

“Gun laws can definitely be put in place, however they should not be restricting the constitutional right to own a gun,” Hulshof said. 

Lear said red flag laws could protect gun owners and their communities. 

“Going back to background checks and red flag laws, those would be beneficial, and catching people who maybe have a history of suicidality, and so that whoever is selling [a gun] to an individual, they can see that when it comes up and decline that person’s purchase of a firearm so that they keep themselves safe and keep their loved ones safe as well,” Lear said. 

Hulshof said he worries red flag laws are not effective. 

“Criminals would still be able to get guns,” Hulshof said. “So it would not reduce the problem of gun violence in that way. Simply just restricting guns isn’t an effective way to stop gun violence; there’s other factors that come into it.”

Burkhart said it isn’t gun laws in the U.S. that contribute to high shooting rates, it’s “the people.” 

“I think that people are always going to get the guns,” Burkhart said. “They’re always going to find access if they want to get a hold of them.”

Burkhart said the issue causing so much violence involves America’s poor mental health.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 25 adults in America live with a serious mental illness.

“I think we have a mental health issue in this country,” Burkhart said. “I think we have a social-emotional health issue in this country, and guns are just the tool that people are using to show their anger and show their hate, or whatever it is that causes someone to do this. … Obviously you can’t be in your right mind if you think it’s a good idea to go shoot in massive amounts of people.”

Christopher Barlett, assistant professor in psychology at Kansas State, said mental health problems can be connected to violent tendencies in individuals. 

“The research is pretty clear that there’s correlations between mental health [and violence] … but we have to be careful not to exclude all the other things that could’ve happened at [the Chiefs’ rally],” Barlett said.

Hulshof said America needs to address mental health concerns. 

“Mental health is really a huge issue that’s causing so many people to go down the lost, wrong pathways,” Hulshof said. “It doesn’t justify, but we need to understand where it’s been starting. Mental health has turned into a drastic issue over the last decades. It’s clearly affecting so many people in smaller ways, even if they don’t become shooters. We need to address that issue. It’s been causing people to do some not good things, because they feel alone. Not only that, they have no support.” 

Barlett said individuals who plan on committing acts of violence sometimes exhibit warning signs.

“We know that the best predictor of that [violence] is that they were in a physical fight prior to that, but that’s just one of hundreds of risk factors that exist for these types of things,” Barlett said. 

Lear said those with mental health issues aren’t inherently violent. 

“We need to make sure that we don’t stigmatize people who are living with mental health issues, because just like pretty much everyone, most people in this country, they are safe,” Lear said. “They’re safe to be around. They’re kind people, and we shouldn’t treat them like they are a danger to us just because of some sort of mental condition that many of them are managing.” 

Barlett said working to improve mental health in America could lower violence rates. 

“If there is less anxiety in the world, for example, then perhaps that will lead to less of something else — maybe stress,” Barlett said. “If you’re less stressed, maybe that would then say there is going to be lower amounts of violence and aggression.” 

Those struggling with mental health can visit Lafene Counseling and Psychological Services for counseling services. 

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About the Contributors
Meredith McCalmon
Meredith McCalmon, news editor
News editor for 2023-24. Previously writer for 2022-23.
Cole Bertelsen
Cole Bertelsen, copy chief
Copy chief for 2023-24. Previously asst. copy chief for 2022-23.
Riley Scott
Riley Scott, graphic design chief
Graphic design chief for spring 2024.
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