More than a year ago, on July 4, 2011, four grown men celebrated outside at the Whispering Lake Apartments in Independence, Missouri, with a 9mm Glock, semi-automatic pistol and took turns firing shots into the air. One of those bullets hit young Blair Shanahan Lane. Aaron Sullivan, the owner of the gun, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to three years in jail. One of the three friends, Bernard Moore, received two years probation, a suspended sentence and 120 hours of community service. The other two friends, Marveon Skinner and Steven Redmond have never even been arrested, even though there are active warrants on them. In fact, according to the Kansas City Star, only Sullivan even showed up for his court dates. Moore was apparently only caught because he had an outstanding speeding violation.
According to Michael Hunt, the chief trial attorney for the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office, “The problem was we couldn’t prove who it was that actually fired the bullet. With Aaron Sullivan we could prove one thing. He was the one who provided the gun that caused the death.”
What about aiding in the commission of a crime? Reckless endangerment? How about charging all four for homicide?
That’s the best available justice for the death of an 11 year-old girl. Where’s the due diligence, the investigation into drinking while shooting bullets in the air which equates to murder of voluntary manslaughter, not involuntary. Shooting BULLETS from a semi-automatic pistol is intent. Blair’s mother, Michele Shanahan DeMoss makes a crucial point, “A bullet is meant to do two things. To maim and to kill,” said Shanahan De Moss. Sullivan’s intent to own the gun was not for celebrations, it was for protection at the very least. It is a firearm and any public discharge has consequences. But according to Missouri law, discharging a weapon, unless it’s from a moving vehicle or pointed at something is not even a felony. The Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker told the Examiner, “The only reason this can be charged is because someone lost their life, a very tragic death. If no one had lost their life, if only property had been damaged, there would be no charges.”
Ironically, getting behind the wheel of a car and killing another person garners a harsher punishment than getting behind a trigger.
Blair’s mom is working with State Rep. Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, on legislation entitled “Blair’s Law,” that would make shooting a gun in the air a Class D felony. “It’s not as high as involuntary manslaughter, but it sends a message,” Peters Baker told the Examiner. “We need you to be responsible gun owners. Shooting a gun for the Fourth of July or a holiday or celebration is incredibly dangerous, and we just shouldn’t allow it.”
Why isn’t it as high as involuntary manslaughter? Why isn’t discharging a gun not a felony?
What is the price of justice for a young child’s life? I know it’s more than three years in jail, a suspended sentence, probation and doing nothing.
Michele, we stand with you as moms, sisters, aunts and daughters. We support you and grieve with you. Sending you love and prayers.
If you want to learn more about this remarkable young lady, visit our previous GIRLFRIEND OF THE WEEK Post.