KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A law created in Kansas after the murder of an Overland Park teen nearly 15 years ago could be adopted nationwide.
Rep. Jake LaTurner, who represents areas of Kansas just outside the metro area, introduced the Kelsey Smith Act to the U.S. House of Representatives last week.
Kelsey Smith was 18 when she was abducted from an area Target and killed by her kidnapper.
Her parents, Greg and Missey Smith, didn’t know if their daughter was dead or alive for four days while law enforcement waited for a cellphone company to release location information from her phone.
Once officers had the information, they found her body within 45 minutes.
The Smiths now work to ensure other families never have to endure the same agonizing wait.
Under the Kelsey Smith Act, wireless providers would be required to give cellphone data to law enforcement in emergency situations that could result in death or serious harm.
“The tragic abduction and murder of Kelsey Smith is heartbreaking and should never happen again. The bipartisan Kelsey Smith Act would ensure law enforcement officers have the resources they need from cell phone providers to locate missing or abducted children. The fear of legal liability should never stand in the way of rescuing a child from a life-threatening situation,” LaTurner said in a statement.
The bill, which has already become law in 30 states, has bipartisan support in the House, including Kansas’ 3rd District Rep. Sharice Davids.
It also has support in the U.S. Senate. Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran joined senators from Missouri and Nebraska to reintroduce the bill there in February.
He is also a sponsor of the renewed effort.
“Kelsey Smith’s tragic abduction sent shockwaves through the Overland Park community and the country,” Moran said in a statement. “I appreciate Rep. LaTurner’s leadership in introducing this legislation in the House, and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation that would make certain our first responders have the tools they need to quickly locate people who have been abducted.”
The Smiths said they are thankful to the Kansas delegation of lawmakers for their efforts to pass the bill.
This isn’t the first time the Kelsey Smith Act has been introduced at the federal level.
In 2016, it failed to pass, with lawmakers citing privacy concerns about law enforcement being able to access information without subpoenas.
A 2019 effort appears to have stalled after its introduction by former Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts.
In 2013, the bill was amended and made it out of a House subcommittee before it eventually stalled as well.
In a 2019 interview with KSHB 41 News, the Smiths said “it’s Kelsey” that keeps them pushing for change at the national level.