Over 3,600 people were convicted between 2015 and 2021 for federal firearm possession in Missouri, which outranks the rest of the nation for its rate of prosecution of such crimes, the Kansas City Star reports. In an analysis of federal sentencing and crime data, the newspaper found Black people were disproportionately convicted for illegally carrying firearms compared to white people. They were also sentenced more harshly. In the federal court jurisdiction that includes St. Louis, eighty one percent of those convicted of illegal firearm possession in the past seven years were Black. In the district that includes Kansas City, fifty four percent were Black. Together the two districts cover the entire state. The state’s population is twelve percent Black.
In the Kansas City district in 2020, Black people were more than twice as likely to receive sentences above the recommended guidelines for firearm possession compared to white people, according to the United States Sentencing Commission. Don Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Kansas City, said the office did not have demographic information on gun possession convictions. “Race is not a factor in prosecutorial decision making or sentencing recommendations,” he said. “Therefore, we don’t track defendants or cases on that criteria.” Researchers, advocates and community members say when it comes to carrying guns, Black people are treated differently as a result of the structure of the state’s gun policies and uneven enforcement.