Aimee Patton

A pleasantly eccentric take on politics

First let me just say I’m a big fan of the Kansas City Zoo.  I’m such a fan that my kid is spending 3 days this week at Zoo Camp.  We are “friends of the zoo”.  I have been going to the Kansas City Zoo regularly since my daughter was a baby.  I’ve been to the new penguin exhibit.  I’ve hung out in the polar bear exhibit.  I’ve walked up that horrible hill from Africa on many a hot, Kansas City day.

I’m shouting it from the rooftops, “I love the Kansas City Zoo!”

In case you haven’t heard, there was a shooting at the Kansas City Zoo on free zoo day for Jackson County residents.

There was a shooting at my zoo.  There was a shooting at our zoo.

So now what Kansas City?  There is a lot of debate in this town about the shooting.  Everyone is focused on the fact that it was free day for Jackson County residents. Is free day the problem?  Should free day at the zoo be stopped?

Stop free zoo day if you think that’s going to solve the problem.

Here’s a hint. It won’t.


In case you haven’t noticed, there isn’t any security at our zoo on free zoo day or any other day.  I can waltz right into our zoo with my backpack and cooler and nobody at the zoo stops to check it.  The staff at the entrance can barely handle making sure everyone has tickets, let alone stop and check backpacks.

It’s 2014 and I’m allowed to enter a large public space without anyone looking in my belongings.  Come on Kansas City.  I can’t enter a stadium or any other amusement park these days without having all of my belongs checked and sometimes I’m even wanded before I enter.

Not at our Kansas City Zoo.

I can drive my car almost up to the entrance of the zoo.  Then I can take my backpack and walk right in.  The only thing the zoo is concerned about is if I paid.  That’s it.

I can’t see a show in the neighboring Starlight Theater without having my bag checked.  Why one and not the other?

In a time when domestic terrorism and mass shootings are unfortunately becoming a common occurrence, the fact that our zoo doesn’t check backpacks and coolers is outrageous.

Stop free zoo day if you think that will help, but the only thing you are doing is putting a band-aid on a bigger security vulnerability that has thankfully been relatively safe until now.

Kansas City and the Zoo need to invest in security at the entrance, in the parking lot and throughout the park.  The entrance should be more secure with personnel checking all belongings when they take your ticket.  There should be security in the parking lot with cameras and some officers patrolling.

This needs to happen on free zoo day and every other day.  This isn’t about free zoo day.  This is about the harsh reality facing America today – we need security in large, public spaces.   Taking these extra steps will ensure that the people and the animals stay safe.

If you agree with me, share your thoughts with the zoo.  I know I’m going to.




6 thoughts on “KC Zoo shooting – stopping free zoo day doesn’t solve the problem.

  1. GW Cook says:

    Excellent article, and thank you for writing it. However, guns have been known to enter restricted areas by being tossed over fence to be retrieved later, or handed into a school through an open window. Adding one security barrier will not do the job.

    1. So do we do nothing and just hope for the best? Thanks for reading and commenting! Aimee

  2. Joseph says:

    It is the free days that attract such large crowds, so while I understand your point about security in large public spaces, it’s only partly valid. One might as well go on a rant about poor parenting…it’s wasted breath. No matter how much money we dump into security equipment and forces, we’ll never be completely secure. Your blog has a “gun control” feel about it, which admittedly makes me bristle a bit. Personally, I’d prefer to have some citizens with conceal and carry licenses floating around the zoo on these busy days.

    To be fair, some sort of scanning could be a deterrent. Weren’t some of the incidents in the parking lot though? I thought one of the videos was shot from there.

    After reading about this year’s and also last year’s incidents, two things seem to pop out: larger crowds than the zoo staff can handle and crowds of unattended teens.

    Last year’s problems occurred when the free day was held on a weekend and 30,000 showed up, so they switched the free day to a weekday…during SPRING BREAK. How about not holding it during Spring Break???

    I’m not sure how the zoo could possibly limit admissions to their 15,000 person target, but if they could that might help.

    Closing earlier might help.

    One suggestion I saw was that teens not be admitted without an adult, but…how many teens per adult? What would keep an adult from entering with a teen and then leaving? Either way, we’re looking for a deterrent, so that policy could help.

    My problem with bag checking, metal detectors, and a huge police force is cost. This is intended to be a “thank you” for the county patrons, but if the cost of holding a free day becomes prohibitive, then eliminate the free day.

    1. Hi Joseph. Welcome to my blog. Thanks for your comment. Yes, I am for gun control. I agree with a lot of your points. The crowd may have been bigger than the zoo can handle, however, with all the build-outs the zoo is doing they better be able to handle big crowds. Maybe this is a chance to look to Omaha and see how they handle crowd control at their zoo. I agree that security costs money, however, in this time we can’t afford not to be diligent about security. These incidents may be about unattended teens, but it will only take one incident of a crazy person with a bomb or a mass shooting to prove my point. Ultimately, it’s up to the zoo and I have a feeling they are going to take the easy road and just limit/stop free zoo day. Thanks again! I hope you will comment again. Have a great day. Aimee

  3. Leanna says:

    I wanted to go to the zoo that day. im 13 and my mother was in the hospital the spring day week and my dad is nowhere. i have a brother and a baby sister and my grandma to watch me, and she cant drive. we have to take busses and walk many dreary hours just to go to the zoo and walk some more…

    but there’s a difference…

    we see the lovely animals we traveled miles for hours for.

    But since we couldnt take busses and walk from my apartment home by the Quick Trip by barry road to the Kansas City zoo early in the morning, even though the previous day we walked approxonatley 20 miles (walking and taking busses, then walking back more and taking less busses) to visit my mom, who has been sick since i was born, out of sergery and into bed.

    So i guess what i am saying with all of this is, they cannot close the Kansas City Zoo free days because of a shooting… my mom can’t go to the Zoo on a paid day. its a tradition we go to the free days. a tradition crushed and never seeing the penguins and the polar bears (which, the giant polar bear statue, my mom’s, friend’s, dad made it… or someone in their family) and i dont think it’s fair. i just wish people managing the zoo can hear from a kids point of view that taking away free days is ruining bonding time (wich me and my mom never do much anymore) and fun to see new animals. my 5 year old sister was so excited about possibly going to the zoo she couldn’t keep her mouth closed. “Now Tati,” i’d always say, “We have to wait until next year for the zoo to have another free day.”

    I can’t say the same ever again if they take away free days.

    See her dissapointed face and tears makes my heart ache.

    I am aboslutely greatful there are blogs and posts like yours that can express the feeling of the free days vanishing that i cannot express because i cannot find the words to tell.

    Im glad there are some people who can fight for zoo rights for the little kids, ages 1- 18, because lets face it, i can even admit, kids being kids is the only thing kids do to have the zoo think twice about taking away free day… adults that an do more than me (which, if i was an adult, i would go to the government or whoever and do something about it) andi am a kid, cannot drive, know no direction to the zoo… …all i am saying is, for someone like me, we look up to the “heros of the zoo.” the zoo that brings our families together and the fascinating sights of the animals some kids have never heard of or have only seen on tv like Animal Planet and Nat Geo Wild.

    You have my thanks for trying to save the free days.

    1. Leanna – your letter brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing. I think your words as to why free day at the zoo is important is better than anything I could write. I hope it’s ok with you – I’m going to post your letter as a new blog entry. I’m hoping that by doing that we can get more people to read your beautiful words.


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