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12 years after tragedy, Blair’s Law reminds people to be safe with guns on Fourth of July

By John Murphy

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    COLUMBIA, Missouri (KOMU) — Blair Shanahan Lane was killed by a stray bullet on the Fourth of July while celebrating in her backyard in Kansas City in 2011. She was 11 years old. Since then, her mom, Michele Shanahan Demoss, worked to get Blair’s Law passed in Missouri, which happened this May.

Blair’s Law elevates the charges for reckless discharge of a firearm up to a Class D felony for multi-time offenders. Shanahan Demoss works to educate others on the dangers of celebratory gunfire, an act that she says took from her “part of (her) life.”

“(Blair) was my whole world,” Shanahan Demoss said. “I am not the same person I was.”

Shanahan Demoss said the pain still comes back every year around this time.

“It’s not the Fourth of July, it’s not the fireworks, it’s the anniversary of the tragedy that changed my world forever and took my daughter from this earth,” she said. “Reckless, irresponsible behavior that should not have happened.”

She added that the time for calling to prevent other deaths like her daughter’s isn’t over.

“And there are still people that need to be educated or arrested so they know the bullet in that gun that you think is so fun to shoot off, you could kill somebody,” she said.

For more than 25 years, Lee Koester has been the secretary and treasurer for the Missouri Sport Shooting Association, which is affiliated with the National Rifle Association.

When he heard about Blair’s story he said: “My heart bleeds for her, it truly does. That’s a nasty thing to happen.”

He’s taught firearm safety classes for years and emphasized gun-owner responsibility.

“Every firearms owner has a responsibility. A responsibility to themselves, to their families, and to the public in general to be safe with their firearms,” he said.

He says there are three basic rules to firearm safety:

Keep it pointed in a safe direction. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. Don’t load it until you are on the firing line with a ready target. “The person that killed the young lady broke rule number one and number two,” Koester said.

Koester said gun owners should not fire into the air, especially when they cannot see or do not know where the bullet may land.

“You’re responsible for that bullet until it comes to a total dead stop somewhere out there,” he said.

Koester said firearms should not be part of Fourth of July celebrations, and he recommends that people keep them locked in a gun safe if they’re going to participate in holiday celebrations.

“(Guns) are not fireworks, they are firearms,” he said.

Shanahan Demoss has been educating and advocating for people to stop recklessly discharging firearms since Blair’s death.

“I think starting with 12 years, the example of perseverance, and not just by me, but the relationships and the people, and the communication about celebratory gunfire has gone to a completely different level,” she said.

Shanahan Demoss continues to honor Blair’s legacy. She runs Blair’s Foster Socks, a nonprofit organization that helps foster children get socks in Kansas City.

Blair’s Law officially goes into effect in late August.

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