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Triggering Change: Engaging Community to Combat Gun Violence

06:00 PM 8:00 PM
Kansas City Library | Plaza Branch: 4801 Main Street, Kansas City, MO

Triggering Change: Engaging Community to Combat Gun Violence

06:00 PM 8:00 PM
Kansas City Library | Plaza Branch: 4801 Main Street, Kansas City, MO
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The Kansas City metro saw its deadliest year on record in 2023 as the community experienced 243 gun-related deaths. American Public Square at Jewell hosted their annual student-produced program which took a deeper look into the roles community education and prevention play in the lives of urban youth at a time when firearm violence is feeling all too normal.  Program panelists included:

    • Jean Peters Baker, Jackson County Prosecutor
    • Chip Brownlee, reporter for The Trace
    • Melissa Patterson Hazley, Ph.D., Kansas City Councilwoman – 3rd District at Large, educational psychologist and researcher
    • Kyle Hollins, founder and CEO – The Lyrik’s Institution
    • LaTasha Jacobs, activist, co-founder of Pretty Pistol Posse and certified firearms instructor
    • Marijana Kotlaja, Ph.D., assistant professor – Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology – University of Missouri-Kansas City
    • Shayla Sullivant, M.D., child and adolescent psychiatrist specialist – Children’s Mercy Hospital

With support from Student Ambassadors, Mary Sanchez of Kansas City PBS | Flatland moderated the discussion; Toriano Porter of The Kansas City Star served as the program’s Roving Reporter; Cami Koons of Kansas City PBS | Flatland provided the evening’s fact checks.

This program was designed for the community by APS’ 2023-24 Student Ambassadors and was the culminating event in their year-long APS Civics Education Initiative experience.  Participating high schools included Belton High School, Guadalupe Center, Lee’s Summit West High School, Olathe North High School, Shawnee Mission North High School, St. Teresa’s Academy, and University Academy.

Acknowledgement: The graphic used for this program was created by a group of Student Ambassadors during their February work day.

The APS Civics Education Initiative Student Initiative takes the APS mission into schools and partnerships with teachers, students and administrators at both the high school and college level. The initiative includes a custom-developed high school curriculum focused on learning about misinformation, disinformation, and bias, and college-level internship opportunities that enable students to produce compelling and relevant programs on significant and difficult issues in our community.

Program Materials

Full Program Recording

Alongside the research conducted by APS staff, the Student Ambassadors hosting this program leveraged the skills they’ve developed in their coursework to research, vet and recommend reference materials to the audience; these materials have been provided to help increase your understanding of the topics discussed at this program, and to affirm this program’s commitment to fact-based conversation.

Special thanks goes to Kelsey Bates, teen services coordinating librarian at the Kansas City Public Library for the work she did to help strengthen the students’ research abilities and knowledge of the research tools and services available to them through the Library.

We hope you will take time to review all materials the students and APS staff have carefully chosen for you.

Child and Teen Firearm Mortality in the U.S. and Peer Countries | by Matt McGough, Krutika Amin, Nirmita Panchal, and Cynthia Cox, KFF (Updated July 18, 2023)

Cliff’s Take: Are the Kids Alright? by Clifford Young, president of US Public Affairs, ISPOS (Aug. 27, 2021)

Guns: Polling Data by Gallup

Gun deaths among U.S. kids rose 50% from 2019 to 2021 | By John Gramlich, Pew Research Center (April 6, 2023)

Murders involving firearms in the us by state 2021 | Data provided via Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Crime Data Explorer

Number of K-12 school shootings in the United States from 1970 to June 16, 2020, by age of shooter | Research conducted by Center for Homeland Defence and Security – Naval Postgraduate School

Share of united States gun owners with various major reasons for owning a gun in the unites states in 2023 | Pew Research Center (Aug. 16, 2023)

YouGov Survey: Mass shootings and guns


The Kansas City Star has moved many of these stories outside of the paywall as a community service. You can support The Star’s local journalism by subscribing at

What is Kansas City doing about record violence in 2023?by Bill Lukitsch, The Kansas City Star (April 22, 2024)

Kansas City leaders discuss grassroots anti-violence efforts | by Kendrick Calfee, The Kansas City Star (March 25, 2024)  

Napping child is shot with gun their dad left under the pillow, Indiana cops say by Kate Linderman (Jan. 29, 2024)

Crown Center’s silence after shooting ‘appalling’ to tenants, who call for communication By Kendrick Calfee (Jan. 24, 2024)

Jury convicts Kansas City man of murder in killing of motorist shot with AR-style rifle by Bill Lukitsch (Jan. 26, 2024; updated April 22)

How many mass shootings has Kansas City seen in the past 5 years? See a map of the data by Natalia Wallington (January 25, 2024)

After Crown Center shooting, KC Mayor Quinton Lucas talks guns with VP Kamala Harris by Daniel Desrochers (Jan. 18, 2024)

‘Alarming in so many ways’: After record homicides, will new Kansas City efforts help? by Bill Lukitsch (Jan. 11, 2024)

‘A direct threat’: Kansas Republicans want to block gun restrictions, but face opposition by Jenna Barackman (Jan. 23, 2024)

Police say homicides down in KC neighborhood due to KC 360. What do the numbers show? by Anna Spoerre (Nov. 15, 2023)

In Kansas City, a wave of evictions could push gun violence to new extremes this year  by Umera Lodhi and Hurubie Meko, The Kansas City Star republished on Missouri Independent (May 23, 2021) 


Flatland in Focus | Guns | Season 1 | Episode 109 | hosted by D. Rashaan Gilmore, Kansas City PBS 


After parade shooting, Kansas City leaders want to pass gun safety laws. Missouri won’t let them | by Celisa Calacal and Kavahn Mansouri, KCUR – Kansas City news and NPR  (Feb. 24, 2024)

Kansas City’s ShotSpotter gunshot detection system has failed to reduce violent crime | by Peggy Lowe, KCUR – Kansas City news and NPR (Nov. 28, 2023) 

Gun violence among juveniles is rising. How do you keep them out of the system? by Michel Martin, NPR (Nov. 7, 2023) 

Hundreds of Kansas Citians are shot each year and survive. Their families have to pick up the pieces | by Peggy Lowe, KCUR – Kansas City news and NPR  (Sep. 27, 2023)

Black communities feel the brunt of gun violence, so these Kansas City women are arming themselves | by Laura Zeigler, KCUR – Kansas City news and NPR (Aug. 24, 2023) 


Kansas City set to implement ‘focused deterrence’ approach to violent crime by Abby Dodge, KSHB (Feb. 22, 2024)

UMKC researchers will track programs to see if their efforts lower crime in KCMO by Megan Abundis, KSHB (Jan. 5, 2024) 

KCMO City Council allocates funding to nonprofits working to prevent youth crime, by Leslie DalasBour, KSHB (May 15, 2023)


Changing perceptions, KC group looks at gun ownership through eyes of black community | by Zac Summers, FOX 4 Kansas City WDAF-TV | News, Weather, Sports (Nov. 11, 2019) 

List of Kansas City metro fatal shootings, homicides in 2024 | by Andrea Klick, Robert A. Cronkleton, Bill Lukitsch, Kendrick Calfee, Noelle Alvis-Gransee and Nathan Pilling, The Kansas City Star (Updated April 23, 2024)

Gun Violence Archive (Kansas)

Gun Violence Archive  (KCMO)

Permitless Carry: These States Allow Gun Owners to Carry Without a License by Chip Brownlee, The Trace (May 12, 2023)

Red Flag Laws: Which States Have Gun Violence Restraining Orders? by Chip Brownlee, The Trace (March 28, 2018)

Which States Have Universal Gun Background Checks? by Chip Brownlee, The Trace (June 15, 2023)

KCPD Crime Plan, from Chief of Police, Stacey Graves

Statista U.S. gun laws by state 2024 | Statista 

Missouri House Republicans shelve bills expanding gun access after Chiefs parade shooting | by Sarah Kellogg, KCUR – Kansas City news and NPR (February 19, 2024)

Biden Moves to Expand Background Checks for Gun Sales by Chip Brownlee, The Trace (April 11, 2024)

Re: ATF report on guns:  Federal report finds 68,000 guns were illegally trafficked through unlicensed dealers over 5 years | by Lindsay Whitehurst and Alanna Durkin Richer, AP News (April 4, 2024)

Law blocking federal gun regulation sows confusion in Missouri | by Gabrielle Hays, PBS NewsHour (Jan. 27, 2023)

Re: The Bipartisan Safer American law: 8 things to know about the gun violence bill | from Associated Press via PBS NewsHour (June 25, 2022)

Are Gun Restrictions Constitutional? Featuring Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) via The Starting Point (March 21, 2024)

How can we balance gun violence as a public health issue while preserving Second Amendment rights?  Featuring multiple Members of Congress via The Starting Point (July 27, 2019)

Program Panelists

Jean Peters-Baker was appointed prosecutor in May 2011 and elected to the position in November 2012. She is only the second woman elected to lead the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office.

Over her career in the prosecutor’s office, Baker has served in practically every unit of the office, including Chief Warrant Officer. In 2018, she created a Crime Strategies Unit, to enhance the office’s data analysis and to promote evidence-based decision making. A key outcome was an examination of drug prosecutions in Jackson County, which found significant racial disparities in the cases referred to our office and little effectiveness in achieving meaningful outcomes. Today, the office continues to accept Kansas City drug cases, but it stresses that these cases must have a connection to violence or be a community concern, such as a drug house disrupting the street’s peace.

To address violence, early in her tenure, Baker initiated a new violence reduction effort that now is known as the Kansas City No Violence Alliance.  Using an evidence-based or proven approach known as focused deterrence, KC NoVA in 2014 was able to help the community reduce homicides in Kansas City to the lowest level in four decades.

Baker briefly left the prosecutor’s office in 2010, when she was elected as a Missouri State Representative. She spearheaded the Kansas City Caucus and served as a co-chair of this group to promote economic development issues for the Kansas City area. In 2011, Baker stepped down as state representative and was appointed to the role of Jackson County Prosecutor.

Baker grew up in an Osage County, MO, farming community, received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in Columbia, MO, a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

Chip Brownlee is a reporter at The Trace covering federal policy related to violence prevention and firearms. He is also the author of The Trajectory newsletter, which spotlights the people, policies, and programs grappling with America’s gun violence crisis. Before joining The Trace as an investigative fellow in June 2020, Chip worked as a reporter and the editor-in-chief of his collegiate newspaper, The Auburn Plainsman. He also covered the state legislature, governor, courts, and elections for the Alabama Political Reporter. As an undergraduate, Chip studied political science and journalism at Auburn University. He also earned an M.A. with a concentration in politics from the Columbia Journalism School.

Dr. Melissa Patterson Hazley, a proud Kansas City native and graduate of Kansas City Public Schools, wears many hats: she’s an Educational Psychologist, dedicated researcher, and now a newly elected Kansas City Council Member representing the 3rd District at Large.

In her professional endeavors, Councilwoman Patterson Hazley focuses on research and evaluation projects aimed at bridging disparities among marginalized communities. Currently, she’s delving into the healthcare continuum for African American youth with intellectual or developmental disabilities, collaborating with the UMKC-Institute for Human Development and Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Beyond her professional pursuits, Councilwoman Patterson Hazley is deeply involved in civic engagement. Notably, she championed the creation of the Kansas City Youth Commission, a testament to her dedication to youth advocacy and engagement in local governance.

Her political involvement is extensive, including managing various candidates and ballot questions, such as the earnings tax and health levy renewals. Economic development is another area close to her heart, as evidenced by her leadership roles on several economic development boards. With a keen interest in housing issues, from vacant properties to financing and tax incentives, Councilwoman Patterson Hazley is committed to crafting policies that empower both the workforce and youth in her community.

Kyle Hollins has traveled a road that is all too common to men and women that come from humble beginnings. He went through Homelessness, Drug Sells, and Gang Life which landed him incarcerated for 90 plus months. He is now a seminary student, attributed writer and the founder of Exile Promotions and Consulting along with The Lyrik’s Institution. Between teaching, public speaking, and using the science of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, he is now able to give back to a community from which he felt he took so much from.

LaTasha Jacobs is a determined individual whose journey into the world of firearms was driven by a deep sense of responsibility as a single mother of two daughters. Witnessing the impact of violence in her community, particularly gun-related violence, she recognized the need for education and respect surrounding firearms usage.

During the COVID shutdown, LaTasha took proactive steps to enhance her knowledge and skills by enrolling in professional training courses. Her dedication led her to become a certified firearms instructor through USCCA and an NRA certified Range Safety Officer. She also managed a locally owned firearms store, facilitated training for over 100 individuals to obtain their conceal carry permits in Missouri and Kansas, and educated numerous young people on situational awareness.

In 2024, LaTasha expanded her impact by becoming politically engaged, joining a group of 2nd Amendment lobbyists to advocate for increased social services in the urban core, where violence is most prevalent. Her commitment to bridging the gap in her community through education, advocacy, and empowerment exemplifies her passion for promoting responsible gun ownership and safety while addressing the root causes of violence.

Dr. Marijana Kotlaja is an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Her research focuses on the etiology and prevention of violence, with an emphasis on using advanced scientific methodology to inform crime policy and practice.

Dr. Kotlaja is currently leading a team of 10 researchers in evaluating programs funded under the Violence Prevention Fund (VPF) in Kansas City, Missouri.  In addition, she is an expert on cross-cultural comparative research, including many forms of behaviors related to radicalization, crime, and deviance. Her continuous dedication to the field has led to her presentation at the United Nations Crime Congress and has led to countless collaborations with researchers both locally and around the world.

Dr. Shayla Sullivant completed undergraduate training at Creighton University and medical school at the University of Kansas, where she also completed a residency in adult psychiatry and fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry.

Since 2010 she has been on staff at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. She serves as an associate professor and chief of the section of psychiatry.

In 2019 she was awarded the Shining Star Award for having the highest patient satisfaction ratings among the medical staff at Children’s Mercy. Dr. Sullivant’s research on suicide prevention focuses on safe storage of firearms and medications. She was recently awarded the Koesten endowed professorship in Developmental and Behavioral Health.

In free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and their two teenagers when the teenagers are willing, and walking their dog Tibbles.

Additional Participants

Program Moderator

Mary Sanchez, senior reporter for Kansas City PBS | Flatland, is a nationally syndicated columnist with Tribune Content Agency. She has also been a metro columnist for The Kansas City Star and member of the Star’s editorial board, in addition to her years spent reporting on race, class, criminal justice and educational issues. Sanchez is a native of Kansas City.

Roving Reporter

Toriano Porter is a national award-winning opinion writer for the Kansas City Star Editorial Board. A native of St. Louis, Toriano has called Kansas City home since 2007. He is a three-time author, distinguished motivational speaker and dedicated mentor to young people in the metropolitan area. 

Fact Checker

Cami Koons is the rural affairs reporter for Kansas City PBS and Flatland. Cami regularly works with APS and area high school students to promote media literacy. She is also a Report For America corps member.

Thank You to Our Season Sponsors

Hall Family Foundation

Health Forward Foundation

The Offices at Park 39

Sue Seidler Nerman and Lewis Nerman

Marny and John Sherman

William Jewell College