Kansas gun owners would be able to carry a loaded handgun in cars regardless of whether they have a conceal-carry permit if a bill headed to the House floor becomes law.
By Bryan Lowry
Eagle Topeka bureau
HB2473 would make gun laws uniform throughout the state by preventing local governments from enacting or enforcing regulations. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Howell, R-Derby, passed without opposition in the Federal and State Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
Rep. Michael Houser, R-Columbus, offered an amendment – which also passed without opposition – that would make it legal for all Kansans to carry a loaded handgun inside their automobiles. The rationale is to essentially treat a car as an extension of one’s home.
Houser, who does not have a conceal-carry permit, said cars are personal property. He also said that requiring open carriers to transport their guns without ammunition loaded in them puts them at risk.
“Say you’re going to get jacked or something … in my younger days, I’d just beat down somebody, but I can’t do that anymore, so I have to have (a gun) for self-defense,” Houser said.
No Democrats offered opposition to the amendment or the bill during the hearing. But Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City, blasted the legislation afterward.
“It frightens me a lot,” Winn said, contending it gives dangerous people “the green light“ to be armed without permits.
“It’s like license to kill. Kansas has license to kill,” Winn said.
Howell’s bill includes provisions that prevent people from obtaining conceal-carry permits if they have been convicted of a violent crime. Current law prohibits this only if the gun was the weapon. Howell’s bill extends that restriction to perpetrators who used knives, baseball bats and other weapons.
When asked why she did not voice her opposition during the hearing, Winn responded, “Why? I’m not going to spend my energy when I know … a majority of these people already have their minds made up.” Winn said she would save her opposition for the House floor, which will be the bill’s next stop.
Howell said his bill has a lot of bipartisan support because he has taken recommendations from Democrats and Republicans alike and from law enforcement agencies.
Though the bill greatly expands gun owners’ ability to carry without regulation, it does include a prohibition against carrying a gun while intoxicated.
The illegal blood alcohol level for carrying a firearm would be the same as that for driving. An exception is made for cases of self-defense.
Through a quirk in the legislative process, Howell is going to have to amend his own bill when it gets to the floor. He intends to prevent law enforcement agencies from destroying confiscated firearms except when they have been used as murder weapons or have no value.
But an amendment designed to restore the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s ability to seize firearms in criminal investigations mistakenly allows the department to destroy seized weapons, which Howell did not intend. Chris Tymeson, chief legal counsel for Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, said the department would not object to the removal of that language.
Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, said the bill will make the law easier to follow and apply for both gun owners and law enforcement agencies.
“Now every Kansas gun owner will know what they can and cannot do. The rules will be clear. And it will clear up tons of confusion,” she said. She has repeatedly said local gun ordinances put gun owners at risk of inadvertently breaking the law when they travel through the state.