- Associated Press - Friday, December 22, 2017

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City’s Westport bar and entertainment district has received permission to screen for weapons in an effort to reduce gun violence.

The city council voted 8-5 Thursday in favor of a pair of ordinances that would allow the city to relinquish its ownership of sidewalks along the district’s main corridors to the Westport Community Improvement District. The action will allow metal detection checkpoints from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. on weekend nights starting in the spring, The Kansas City Star reports.

“This is innovative. It’s outside the box, but we feel like it’s going to be very effective,” said Kyle Kelly, co-owner of Kelly’s Westport Inn, who has been involved in months of negotiations to address weekend gun violence.

Opponents, however, worry the approach could lead to discrimination and sets a bad precedent of giving away public assets to private interests. Jolie Justus, who voted against the ordinance, called instead for reducing the number of 3 a.m. bars in Westport and lobbying lawmakers to reform gun laws.

The Westport Regional Business League originally wanted to privatize the main streets in the district after a spate of violent, often late-night crime. The police cannot screen for weapons on public streets or sidewalks.

Katheryn Shields, who sponsored the ordinances, said she could only support giving up the sidewalks. She also wanted the city to be able to reclaim the sidewalks if the City Council ever thought privatization wasn’t working as promised.

If the city reclaims ownership of the sidewalks within the first three years of privatization without any reason, the city would have to reimburse the Westport CID up to $132,784 for its expenses. But the council also approved an amendment Thursday, saying that the city doesn’t have to reimburse the district for its expenses if civil rights violations occur. Provisions call for the district to hire civil rights observers for each entry point to monitor the process and to report any violations to the city’s Human Relations Department.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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