Gun bill moves through Kansas House committee after provision allowing loaded firearms in cars is stripped

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04/24/2014 5:40 PM

05/16/2014 1:20 PM

A proposal to strip Kansas cities and counties of their power to regulate firearms is moving through the state Legislature again after supporters on Wednesday jettisoned a provision allowing gun owners to carry loaded firearms in their cars.

They also agreed to remove language allowing parents to give their children permission to carry guns.

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee rewrote the bill and approved it a second time, clearing the way for a debate in the full House by next week.

The committee approved the bill in February, but leaders of the House’s Republican majority – who support gun-rights – did not schedule a debate because of opposition to it, particularly from law enforcement groups. The bill’s backers brokered compromises, and Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, returned the bill to committee Tuesday.

The rewritten bill still would prevent cities, counties and townships from regulating guns and void existing local gun ordinances, guaranteeing that the open carrying of firearms would be legal across Kansas. Local governments also couldn’t force their employees to disclose to supervisors whether they have concealed carry permits.

Supporters of the bill say that a patchwork of local gun ordinances confuses gun owners and infringes upon rights protected by the federal and state constitutions. Gun-rights groups still believe the deleted provisions represent good policy, but Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, said their first priority is ensuring that gun laws are uniform across the state.

“I’m a realist,” said Rep. Larry Campbell, R-Olathe. “We don’t want to lose the bill.”

The bill still faces opposition from local officials, who have argued that they are the best judges of what gun-safety regulations are best for their communities. They also fear the bill would force them to allow workers to carry hidden firearms on the job.

“Is it better now than it was? Yeah,” said Eric Smith, a lobbyist for the League of Kansas Municipalities. “It’s still sausage.”

State law prohibits children under 18 from possessing firearms with a barrel of less than 12 inches, except for hunting and shooting competitions and at firing ranges, gun-safety courses and parents’ and grandparents’ homes. The bill would have allowed children to carry guns elsewhere with permission from parents or guardians.

Supporters acknowledged fears that parents of young gang members would give them permission to carry guns, and the committee removed the provision without much debate.

But some committee members resisted removing the language allowing lawful gun owners to carry loaded firearms in their vehicles statewide, instead of being covered by local rules. Rep. J.R. Claeys, R-Salina, said a car is an extension of a person’s home.

“It’s important that we not make poor policy decisions for the purpose of appeasing a group of folks,” Claeys said.

But law enforcement groups said the provision didn’t contain restrictions to prevent gang members or people under court restraining orders for stalking or domestic violence from carrying loaded weapons in their cars.

“We see it as a public safety issue,” said Ed Klumpp, a former Topeka police chief who lobbies for chiefs, county sheriffs and other law enforcement officers.

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