JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A bill in the hands of the Missouri governor would impose tougher penalties for people who fire celebratory gunshots.

Back in 2011, falling bullets fired on the 4th of July killed 11-year-old Blair Shanahan Lane. Since then, Blair’s mom, Michele Shanahan DeMoss, has been coming to Jefferson City to ask lawmakers to strengthen the state’s law. Nearly 13 years later, and after many attempts, it’s now up to Governor Mike Parson.

“It means finally we can move forward, and we can see the difference that will be made by Blair’s Law,” DeMoss said moments after the bill passed the General Assembly.

After years of pleading for tougher laws, Blair’s mom thought the fight was over last summer, until she received a phone call from Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville.

“I got a phone call the day before the governor vetoed the bill, and I had to call Blair’s mom on the phone and tell her that this was a fight we were going to have to bring back to the state Capitol again,” Luetkemeyer said.

Parson announced last July that he was vetoing a large crime bill that included Blair’s Law. Parson said in an interview following the veto that it wasn’t Blair’s Law he didn’t agree with; instead, he disliked a provision regarding restitution.

“The big point of contention, I think, last year was there was a provision that would have allowed people who were wrongfully convicted of a crime to get restitution to be paid for the time that they were wrongfully imprisoned,” Luetkemeyer said. “The governor thought the counties should pay for that because the county prosecutors are the ones who bring criminal charges and ultimately prosecute people.”

By rejecting that provision, Parson vetoed the entire omnibus bill. DeMoss said that after the veto was announced, she was convinced last year was going to be the year there would be a law named after her daughter.

“It was the first of July, which is already hard, and I mentally have to prepare myself and put myself in a place just to get through the first 10 days of July,” DeMoss said. “To sit in my shoes or to sit in our family’s shoes, to be able to have a law in place that when somebody does something so irresponsible and reckless, you don’t even have to think, it’s a major crime.”

In 2011, a stray bullet in Kansas City killed Blair’s 11-year-old daughter. She said the bullet traveled three football fields and hit Blair in the neck. Four men were later arrested and charged with shooting a pistol recklessly into a nearby lake. Aaron Sullivan, 50, served a short prison sentence after being charged with manslaughter.

“It’s one thing for us to come down here because we’re paid to come down; she’s not,” Rep. Mark Sharp, D-Kansas City, said. “She’s just been a gun violence advocate since she lost her daughter to gun violence.”

During the final hours of session this year, a bipartisan vote sent the bill to Parson’s desk again, excluding the language he rejected last year. Under Blair’s Law, it will be a crime of unlawful discharge of a firearm to shoot a gun with criminal negligence within a city’s limits. The provision is one of many in Luetkemeyer’s large crime package, Senate Bill 754.

“This is the first firearm provision that’s been passed that would really crack down on gun violence in our cities,” Sharp said.

Another provision increases the penalty for people who are convicted of assaulting a police dog. The measure is known as “Max’s Law” after the killing of a St. Joseph police K9 who died in the line of duty. Under Max’s Law, the penalty for assaulting a police animal would increase from a class C misdemeanor to a class A misdemeanor. If the animal is in need of veterinary care, a person would be guilty of a class E felony, meaning imprisonment for up to four years. If the animal dies, a person could be guilty of a class D felony, meaning up to seven years in prison.

“Right now, killing a police K9 is a less serious crime than breaking out the window of a police car, if you can believe that,” Luetkemeyer said. “It’s treated as ordinary property damage yet we know these animals put their lives on the line to keep their human partners and the public safe.”

The bill also includes a provision called “Valentine’s Law,” named after St. Louis County Police Detective Antonio Valentine, who was killed in December 2021 in a police pursuit when a man driving a stolen car and fleeing police struck his car head-on.

The law, new to the crime bill this year, would make it a felony to flee from police while committing a crime.

“I think it’s really important that we have a big success on crime this year, because we know it’s an important economic issue so that Missouri remains competitive,” Luetkemeyer said. “We’ve heard the Missouri Chamber this year talk about crime as being one of the economic drivers for companies not relocating to Missouri or for some companies leaving.”

The legislation also includes a measure to raise the minimum age to be tried as an adult from 12 to 14. Luetkemeyer said this provision is in the bill because some juveniles don’t understand the nature of what they are doing. He said that in cases involving dangerous felonies, like homicides or other types of crime against a person, those individuals can still be tried as adults at a younger age.

Lawmakers, including Sharp and Luetkemeyer, are confident that Parson will sign the bill into law.