Kansas lawmakers are the unnamed accessories in tragic road-rage shooting death | Opinion

Writing today is literally making me sick to my stomach.

But I don’t feel like I have any choice but to react to the weekend shooting of 69-year-old Norma Williams, following a minor accident at a Wichita intersection. The shooting followed a chase by a gang of young motorcycle stunt bikers, one of whom has been charged with murder.

Police Chief Joe Sullivan called the killing “sickening, disgusting and unacceptable.”

Sadly, it was also entirely predictable, because we live in a state where our legislators love guns and their NRA ratings more than senior citizens — or anyone else for that matter — and have written laws relegating carnage like the death of Norma Williams to the realm of acceptable collateral damage.

According to a Go Fund Me page, set up by family and friends of Williams and her surviving husband George, the couple were on their way home from a high school football game when her life was taken, violently and senselessly.

A gang of street-stunting/racing motorcyclists had “taken over the intersection” of the westbound Kellogg access road at Greenwich, according to Sullivan.

As the couple crossed the intersection, one of the bikers ran a red light, hitting their pickup truck, he said.

“They attempted to leave the scene, drive away from the encounter, obviously concerned for their own safety, when at least two or three of the stunt riders followed them,” Sullivan said. “One of them pulled a firearm and put two shots into the rear window of the pickup truck and killed the female occupant of the truck, in full view of her husband.”

He vowed to use every police resource to bring to justice “the individual that thought it was necessary to kill a woman, defenseless, shoot her from behind in the back of her head.”

Later, police arrested 19-year-old Daryon Boone of Wichita, the same biker alleged to have hit the Williamses’ car, on suspicion of first-degree murder, criminal discharge of firearm into an occupied vehicle and aggravated assault. He made $500,000 bond and is back on the street as you read this.

Because of NRA, guns easy to obtain

The accessories to this shooting and dozens of others like it are the people who make the laws of this state.

You see, not too long ago, it used to be illegal to carry loaded guns in public in Wichita.

But the Legislature has systematically stripped cities of the authority to regulate firearms, in favor of the guns-everywhere-all-the-time approach dictated by their masters in the National Rifle Association and its affiliate, the Kansas State Rifle Association.

City officials reluctantly repealed the municipal prohibition on carrying loaded weapons in 2012, after then-Attorney General Derek Schmidt ruled the city code violated a 2007 state law that limited cities’ authority to regulate weapons.

In 2014, the Legislature passed and then-Gov. Sam Brownback signed another law that took preemption even further, prohibiting cities from having any local control over “the sale, purchase, transfer, ownership, storage, carrying, transporting or taxation of firearms or ammunition, or any component or combination thereof.”

The legislative history since then is too convoluted for the space I have here.

Suffice it to say that as things stand now, state law has been relaxed so far that anyone 21 or older who can legally own a handgun can carry it, loaded, openly or concealed, pretty much anywhere they want, for any reason they want, with neither permit nor training required. Persons between 18 and 21 can carry openly at will, but still would need a permit to carry concealed.

So if police traffic-stop a gang of bikers wearing guns in holsters, they can’t even ask why, as long as they’re over 18.

Tragic results of policy

So today, George Williams is faced with living out the rest of what should have been his golden years without his beloved wife of 52 years.

And he’ll have to live with the traumatic memory of Norma dying on the passenger seat next to him, for no better reason than that somebody with a gun got mad over a minor fender-bender.

The shooter is of course the one who’s most directly responsible, but make no mistake about it: the blood of Norma Williams is also all over our Kansas lawmakers.

They’re the ones who put the gun in his hand.