A Kansas City photographer who documented graduations, a St. Louis high school freshman who loved to dance, and a Springfield police officer who responded to a mass shooting at a gas station were among 689 people shot and killed in Missouri in 2020, a year that may be state’s deadliest ever for gun violence, reports the Kansas City Star. The trend was driven by the state’s two largest cities, with 266 gun homicides in St. Louis and 161 in Kansas City. Springfield, the third-largest city, saw fatal shootings more than double, with 23. By year’s end, Missouri had the nation’s third highest per-capita rate of gun deaths, behind Louisiana and Mississippi. To understand the scope of gun violence, the Star interviewed experts, gathered information about dozens of shooting victims, and analyzed data from police and the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks gun incidents.
The Star assembled profiles of 60 victims. Details and photographs were collected from interviews with friends and families, obituaries and news reports from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Springfield News-Leader. The effort is part of the Missouri Gun Violence Project, a two-year, statewide solutions journalism collaboration supported by the Report for America and the Missouri Foundation for Health. People grappling with violence — criminologists, health care professionals, violence interrupters, law enforcement officials — say the coronavirus pandemic’s disruptions aggravated gun violence problems, putting people more at risk and hampering prevention efforts. Within 15 minutes of ringing in the New Year, St. Louis saw its first two homicides of 2021, in a double shooting. “So both Kansas City and St. Louis entered the current period poised for a continued increase in violence this year, unlike other cities,” said criminologist Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “A longstanding crime drop has been overturned, and that is not the case in other cities.”