TOPEKA — A Senate committee approved a pair of gun bills Monday featuring provisions intended to keep firearms out of the hands of people engaged in domestic violence and to allow Kansas to begin recognizing concealed-carry permits issued by other states.
Members of the Republican-dominated Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee eagerly lauded the domestic violence reform, which was adopted 120-0 by the House. Kansans would be prohibited under the bill from possessing a gun if convicted of domestic abuse or if subject to a protection order issued by a judge.
The Senate committee did vote to amend House Bill 2145 to make it legal under state law for people to possess firearm sound suppressors manufactured, purchased and possessed within Kansas.
The committee also agreed to strip from Senate Bill 2042 a provision lowering the minimum age for carrying a concealed weapon from 21 to 18, as well as a section enabling public universities to restrict the privilege of carrying concealed to people with a state permit. In Kansas, permits require training, a background check and payment of a fee.
Jo Ella Hoye, who leads the Kansas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said the bipartisan legislation related to domestic violence would save lives. In the past five years, she said, 119 people died in domestic violence homicides in Kansas. Nearly three of every five of those deaths involved a firearm, she said.
She said the Senate ought to swiftly forward the reform to Gov. Jeff Colyer, who should sign it into law.
“Cities in states that restrict access to firearms by those under domestic violence protection orders see a 25 percent reduction in intimate partner gun deaths,” Hoye said. "We're not going to give up."
During debate on the domestic-violence bill, both Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, and Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, convinced the committee to accept their amendments. Tyson’s would create statutory language making Kansas law clear that it was legal to manufacture, sell and possess sound suppressors.
It’s a reaction to the successful federal prosecution of two men in Kansas, both the manufacturer of a silencer and the purchaser of that accessory.
“We need to codify this in statute before other people are caught in this ambiguous language,” Parker said.
Masterson’s amendment was borne of an incident in which his nephew was expelled from school for one year for having a multi-pointed, Batman-themed metal device that could be interpreted as a lethal weapon. Existing state law makes possession of a “throwing star” illegal, the senator said.
His amendment would make it a criminal offense to possess a throwing star only if there was intent to use it unlawfully against another person.
Sen. Lynn Rogers, D-Wichita, questioned the wisdom of cluttering the popular domestic-violence bill with an obscure amendment about comic-character objects.
“I’m against amending this bill,” Rogers said. “It was 120 to nothing in the House. It is very important that we pass it clean and keep it that way so we can move forward and send it to the governor as soon as possible.”
Masterson dug in his heels, saying, "It's not wrong to fix a problem at any time."
At Masterson’s request, the section of House Bill 2042 lowering the age from 21 to 18 to legally carry concealed in Kansas was deleted. His motion also eliminated text allowing university officials to exclude from campus people with concealed firearms if they didn’t have a license.
“Hmm. That’s not good,” said Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita.
In the face of clear opposition, Rogers withdrew a proposed amendment banning in Kansas the so-called “bump-stock.” It’s the device deployed by the Las Vegas mass murderer to make a semi-automatic assault rifle perform as an automatic.
Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, a Baxter Springs Republican, said the amendment would have little practical effect. He said he could use the loop on his pants to create recoil comparable to a bump stock.
“Would this outlaw my belt loop?” he asked Rogers.