Chris Haxel | KBIA

Chris Haxel

Chris comes to KCUR as part of Guns & America, a reporting collaboration between 10 public media stations that is focused on the role of guns in American life. Hailing from Springfield, Illinois, Chris has lived in seven states and four counties. He previously served in the Army, and reported for newspapers in Kansas and Michigan. Chris lives in downtown Kansas City. He roots for St. Louis sports teams, which means he no longer cares about the NFL.

Commuters interested in conspiracy theories about George Soros, Hillary Clinton and the Republican National Committee have a new option, courtesy of the Russian government.

Early this month, a radio station based in Liberty, Missouri, signed a three-year deal to broadcast Radio Sputnik across Kansas City.

The English-language programming airs for three hours each morning and again in the evening on three frequencies controlled by KCXL: 1140 AM, 102.9 FM and 104.7 FM.

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

Once again, Kansas City, Missouri,  finds itself in the midst of a climb in homicides.

With city leaders scrambling to combat high levels of gun violence, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas is dusting off an old legal tactic: suing the gun industry.

Such lawsuits were relatively common in the 1980s and 1990s, until Congress passed a law in 2005 that largely curtailed the tactic.

Kansas City violence this year has exceeded 2018 totals, and is approaching the modern high-water mark left in 2017, when the city tallied 151 homicides and 505 nonfatal shootings.

A year ago, police saw an improved homicide clearance rate as reason for optimism. This year, the clearance rate sagged while shootings and homicides rose.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas pushed through a couple of minor city ordinances that could help police target a small subset of gun crimes this year. Kansas City police raised the reward for homicide tips and shifted the focus of an existing anti-violence program. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson suggested passing gun laws that mirror existing federal law.

All the while, the city is still bleeding, on pace for about 150 homicides and another 500 nonfatal shootings by the end of the year.

Ahead of a presidential impeachment vote in the U.S. House, and with a trial looming in the Senate, hundreds of protesters gathered Tuesday evening outside the Overland Park, Kansas, office of U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in an effort to convince him to break with his Republican colleagues.

The House vote is expected to fall largely along party lines.

Roberts, who plans to retire when his fourth term expires next year, has not publicly stated how he intends to vote.

Eight-year-old Brian Bartlett was asleep in his home earlier this month when someone sprayed dozens of bullets into his bedroom. 

While his death was shocking, Kansas City is now four years into a wave of increased killings and officials are grasping for solutions.

Police quietly shifted their anti-violence strategy months ago. But it might not be the solution officials hope for.

A federal judge is holding the U.S. Attorney's Office in Kansas in contempt in connection with a burgeoning scandal involving recordings of confidential conversations between criminal defendants and their attorneys at a federal detention center in Leavenworth, Kansas.


During the first night of the second Democratic presidential debate, the question of how to reduce gun violence emerged as one issue on which the sometimes-splintered Democratic Party speaks with as close to one voice as it can.

"As your president, I will not fold," vowed Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., before rattling off her list of proposals, which included background checks, an assault weapons ban and "something" about magazines.

The summer months tend to be among the most violent, and Kansas City is on pace for more homicides than last year, so officials are offering something to help solve crime: more cash, with no questions asked.

The city’s Crime Stoppers program, which rewards anonymous tips that lead to an arrest, features a sliding reward scale based on the severity of the crime.

A typical gun crime, such as illegal possession of a firearm, might dole out $1,000.

Lynn Rolf III owns a lot of guns, but only one makes him stop and think whenever he sees it.

“I’ve had conversations with one of my pistols numerous times about how easy it would be to put it in the mouth,” he said. “Pretty one-sided.”

For the second straight legislative session, the Missouri General Assembly didn't pass any pro-gun legislation, while one bill backed by anti-gun groups saw a sliver of success.

Does that mean legislators’ stance on guns is shifting? It depends on whom you ask.

The family of a woman who died in custody at the Jackson County Detention Center in 2017 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit claiming workers ignored the woman's pleas for help and falsified her medical records.

ReGina Thurman died "a horrible and preventable death" about 14 hours after arriving at the jail on Jan. 20, 2017, according to the lawsuit filed in Jackson County Circuit Court by Thurman's family earlier this month. The Kansas City Star first reported the lawsuit on Monday. 

Negligence and lax government oversight led to a fatal explosion at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, according to a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit filed this month by the family of the worker killed in the blast.

Lawrence Bass Jr., 55, was killed, and four other workers were injured, when an explosive material called tetrazene exploded on April 11, 2017.

Two years after an explosion at a crucial Army factory that is the country’s largest producer of small-caliber ammunition, the underlying cause of Lawrence Bass Jr.’s death remains unclear.

Bass, a longtime employee, followed explosives-handling procedures later deemed to be poorly written. He worked for a defense contractor anxious to slash costs on a government contract it had underbid.

The families of several people who were killed or wounded in a 2016 mass shooting near Wichita, Kansas, have reached a multimillion-dollar settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the pawn store that sold some of the guns used in the attack.

The lawsuit alleged that local retailer A Pawn Shop sold the guns to a woman as part of a straw purchase, which is when one person buys a gun on behalf of someone else, circumventing background checks and federal law.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear the appeal of a Kansas death row inmate who claims the state unconstitutionally abolished his right to use insanity as a defense for his crimes.

Nobody disputes that James Kahler murdered four family members in 2009. But Kahler's attorneys argued at trial and in subsequent appeals that he had spiraled into a mental health crisis in the months preceding the murders and was psychotic during the attack. The murders took place in Burlingame, about 30 miles south of Topeka.

After a year in which 93 percent of its homicides involved guns, Kansas City, Missouri, continues to rank among the most violent cities in the country,

So it's an issue of key concern in this spring's mayoral primary race.  At a forum last week, nine of the city's 11 mayoral candidates took the opportunity to share their perspectives and solutions.

A proposal to build an Islamic community center in Overland Park received preliminary approval Monday despite apparent opposition from hundreds of Overland Park residents.

As Missouri moves toward implementing the voter-approved medical marijuana program, state officials on Wednesday warned potential patients to hold off on paying for a physician certification until June.

This story has been updated to include the passage of HR 2112, the Enganced Background Checks Act of 2019.

Almost 25 years to the day after the Brady Bill first mandated background checks for some gun sales, Democrats and a handful of Republicans in the United States House of Representatives voted to require background checks on all gun sales.

Before Wednesday, the House had not voted on major gun legislation since 1994, when it passed the 10-year ban on assault weapons.

Topeka-based Payless ShoeSource is closing all 2,300 of its domestic retail stores, a company spokesperson confirmed to KCUR on Monday. About 1,200 retail stores outside the U.S. are not affected.

The news was first reported by Reuters on Friday. Sources told the news service the company plans to file for bankruptcy, less than two years after emerging from bankruptcy in 2017.

The company began liquidation sales at its American stores on Sunday. Online sales are also being eliminated.

Note: This post has been updated to include comments from Sen. Bob Onder.

A bill that would allow people to bring guns onto public transit last week became the first of about 20 gun-related proposals to receive a hearing in the current Missouri legislative session.

As Fred Nelson shuffled through a crowded convention center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a man tapped him on the shoulder to ask about a gun.

The man knew Nelson was selling thanks to the handwritten menu taped on Nelson's backpack advertising more than a dozen handguns, rifles and shotguns.

He offered $300 for a Glock 19 pistol listed at $350.

"Meet me in the middle at $325," Nelson responded. "It's never been fired. You can look down the barrel."

An appeal filed by a Kansas man on death row has caught the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court and could change how Kansas and other states prosecute people who commit crimes while mentally ill.

Nobody disputes that James Kahler murdered four family members in 2009. But Kahler’s attorneys argued at trial and in subsequent appeals that he had spiraled into a mental health crisis in the months preceding the murders and was psychotic during the attack. The murders took place in Burlingame, about 30 miles south of Topeka.

It's pretty much unanimous now: The Jackson County Detention Center needs to be replaced. That's according to two new, separate studies released Friday afternoon.

Lawmakers this week are reintroducing federal legislation that would require background checks on nearly all gun purchases — what they call "universal background checks." But what are universal background checks, and how could they affect gun sales in Kansas and Missouri? Let's take a look at what they would — and would not — entail.

People are less likely to commit crimes when they think they’ll get caught.

That seeming truism, which is supported by research and the Department of Justice, led the Kansas City Police Department to make some changes this year after a wave of violence in 2017 sent the homicide rate to levels not seen in more than two decades.

Though the criminal justice reform bill signed into law Friday by President Donald Trump affects only prisoners charged with federal crimes, it could have an outsized effect in states like Kansas and Missouri, where repeat drug offenders are more likely to face harsh prison sentences.

It isn't every day three women in their seventies walk into a gun store.

Stephanie Nugent is the rookie, a first-time shooter who before today had never held more than a water gun.

Mary Knox is proficient: Two years ago she was "petrified," but overcame arthritic hands and bought her own pistol for self-defense.

Then there's Karen Corum, who has long had an interest in shooting and says she has "always been fairly good at it." She got Knox into the shooting sports and the duo now shoots together almost every week.

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