When I first joined the Kansas Army National Guard at age 20, I was trained to safely use different kinds of high-powered automatic weapons. Years later as a sergeant and captain in the Reserves, I trained hundreds of our soldiers to use these powerful weapons. Our military has the most advanced firearms in the world, but I know how easily they can be misused or accidentally discharged, and how fast they can be fired with devastating results.
I’ve also led a large city and know that it only takes a few seconds to shatter lives. I cannot count the number of times when as mayor of Wichita, I tried to console a grieving family who lost a loved one in a senseless gun-related death.
Our country has witnessed all too frequently the use of military-style weapons to maim, murder and destroy innocent life. We must have a national conversation now that objectively analyzes how to reduce the lethality of the weapons used and the frequency of these massacres. Guns don’t kill people, but they make it very easy — especially when untrained and unvetted citizens can legally acquire them, along with large-capacity banana clips and drum magazines to feed them and bump stocks, which turn rifles into automatic weapons. These arsenals let people fight wars in our neighborhood schools, places of worship and businesses (such as at the Feb. 14, 2016 shooting at Excel Industries in Hesston, Kan.).
As governor, I will support and sign a state law banning the sale of bump stocks. I will also support and sign a law banning the sale or use in Kansas of bullet-storage devices that hold more than 15 rounds.
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As governor, I will support and sign a law repealing permission to carry weapons onto college campuses.
As governor, I will support additional resources for mental health programs, including expanding Medicaid, with the goal of keeping Kansans safe.
As governor, I will support universal background checks on every purchase of a firearm in Kansas, with the sole exception of the inheritance or gifting of firearms within a family.
As governor, I will support and sign a law that repeals the massive unfunded mandate from Kansas legislators in 2014 that required local governments — including small city or county governments without large tax bases — to allow carrying weapons inside their public buildings unless they wish to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for full-time security personnel and metal detectors. In Wichita in 2014, it was estimated that it could cost $14 million each and every year to restrict firearms in 107 city-owned buildings. This law must be repealed, unless the Kansas Legislature wishes to put money where its mandates are.
As a retired member of our military, I fully understand the role powerful high-tech weapons play in keeping this country safe. I own firearms and have used them to hunt deer and upland game birds for most of my life. I spent many years as a youth on my grandparents’ farm in Oklahoma, and understand that firearms are used by many rural families for protection from rattlesnakes and rabies-infected animals, and to put meat on the table. I will always honor our Kansas hunting and firearm ownership traditions. But we must come together to find responsible solutions to greatly reduce the incidence of these massacres.
We must also be vigilant in our efforts to protect our law enforcement officers from devastating firepower that comes too easily into the hands of people who can’t be trusted to obey the law. We deserve to live in a nation that is free from fear that our children and grandchildren will be mercilessly attacked in their classrooms, that we will have to shield our coworkers from a stream of bullets, and that we are unsafe when we bow our heads in our places of worship.
Carl Brewer, former mayor of Wichita, is a Democratic candidate for Kansas governor.