Chiefs parade shooting investigation confirms that guns make you stupid | Opinion

“Well, when I did carry (a gun) I hardly ever used it. And it makes you stupid. You stop thinking of options. The gun doesn’t want options.”

That quotation comes from a novel by Martin Cruz Smith called “Tatiana,” one of the sequels in his “Gorky Park” series about honest-but-melancholy Russian detective Arkady Renko.

I read the book years ago (and special thanks to Wichita Public Library research librarian Charles Hankins for helping me track down the exact wording of the quotation).

What brought it to my mind this week was reading through the police charging affidavit for one Lyndell Mays, the man alleged to have fired the opening shots in the deadly gun battle at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade and rally on Feb. 14.

It began as a “What are you looking at?” sort of staredown between two rival groups of morons, and by the time it was over, an innocent bystander was dead and 22 were wounded, about half of them children.

From the affidavit:

“When asked why Lyndell Mays advanced on them to begin with, he (Mays) replied, ‘Stupid, man. Just pulled a gun out and started shooting. I shouldn’t have done that. Just being stupid.’”

We’re 24 years into the 2000s, and I think we can safely call that the understatement of the century, so far.

But lest Mays feel alone, he’s not. There’s plenty of stupidity to go around. And it reaches all the way to state governments on both sides of the Kansas-Missouri border.

Who did what

We now know a lot more than we did a week ago about the gun battle that erupted at the parade and rally.

The more we know, the stupider it gets.

When the staring match escalated to a shouting match, Mays admits he pulled a gun he was carrying and started shooting at a member of the rival group, who was by then trying to run away. The two groups pulled more guns and their misses tore through the densely packed crowd.

Another alleged adult arrested in the melee is one Dominic Miller. Shot in the back, he initially tried to pass himself off as a victim.

But security footage obtained by police showed he was a full participant in the shootout, and the bullet the coroner pulled out of the body of the woman who died, 43-year-old Tejano disc jockey Lisa Lopez-Galvan, matched up to Miller’s pistol.

Both Mays and Miller are facing second-degree felony murder and other charges. Two juveniles are also in custody. We don’t yet know what role they played in the fracas.

Also, a Wichita ex-convict, Jose Castillo, is facing charges of illegal gun possession for allegedly picking up one of the dropped firearms at the scene and trying to make off with it. Castillo was convicted in federal court in 2016 for felony conspiracy to distribute marijuana, so he’s banned from possessing guns.

Stupid, stupid, and more stupid.

But it doesn’t end there.

Let’s give a less-than-honorable mention to the Municipal Court in the Kansas City suburb of Belton, Missouri. They let Mays off with probation for causing a panicky stampede at the town’s community center three years ago by brandishing his gun at a basketball game. They sure taught him a lesson.

But sharing the first place award for stupidity are the members of the Kansas and Missouri legislatures, who set the table for the Chiefs parade shooting by passing “constitutional carry,” the stupidest gun law ever conceived.

It basically says if you can own a gun, you can carry it concealed pretty much wherever you want, unless the venue screens for weapons — a frank impossibility in an open setting like the Chiefs victory parade.

Time was, police who saw someone with a gun in the middle of a large crowd could take it away, at least for the duration of the event.

Under constitutional carry, they can’t even ask about it until bullets are already flying, and by then it’s far too late.

Failure to protect

In the firm grip of the gun lobby, the Kansas Legislature passed constitutional carry in 2015.

The previous year, Kansas had 329 gun homicides statewide, a rate of 11.3 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2021, the most recent CDC data available, Kansas had 503 gun deaths, a rate of 17.3 per 100,000.

Failing to learn from the Kansas example, the Missouri General Assembly passed constitutional carry in 2021. We don’t have firm data yet, but we do know that Kansas City had a record year for homicide last year.

A week ago Friday, I was on the KPTS public-television show “Kansas Week,” debating firearms issues with Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell, a former Kansas legislator and leading advocate for lax gun laws.

He trotted out the classic hits: Second Amendment rights, good guy with a gun, people sometimes kill with cars, etc.

But what he said that really stuck with me was this: “I probably would not have wanted to be down there without any type of personal protection. I just, I don’t feel safe … I know police are not going to be there to protect me when something goes down. I have to take that responsibility on myself or I’m not going to go.”

During the show, I didn’t get a chance to point out that police did protect us until they were hamstrung by constitutional carry.

I also didn’t have time to ask him how he’d propose to deploy his self-protection in a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people without making himself as big a menace as Mays, Miller and their respective gun crews.

But I did ask him that later. His answer was essentially that he’s taken training to get his concealed carry permit, and if he erred, he’d probably be too slow to fire, not wanting to hit innocent bystanders.

Howell’s a thoughtful guy and in his case, that might actually be true.

But it’s worth noting here that constitutional carry doesn’t require training or a permit, and hardly anybody who’s packing concealed weapons these days has either one, because they don’t have to.

So to our Kansas and Missouri legislators, I say this: Guns have made you stupid. Like Arkady Renko, you need to start looking for options, because the gun doesn’t want options.

They never do.