AP: Gun-rights bills nearing final passage

4/4/2013

Gun-rights bills nearing final passage

Gun-rights bills nearing final passage

TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas legislators were close Wednesday to finishing work on measures declaring that the federal government can't regulate some guns and allowing public schools and colleges to arm employees with concealed firearms.

House and Senate negotiators agreed on the final version of a bill aimed at preventing the federal government from restricting access to guns, ammunition and accessories manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas. The bill makes it a felony for a federal agent to attempt to enforce a law, regulation, order or treaty affecting such guns.

They also worked out the final language for a separate concealed carry bill, reconciling the differences in versions approved by each chamber.

That measure would require local governments, public schools and state colleges to provide adequate security for their buildings if they want to ban people with state permits from carrying concealed weapons inside. Also, local school boards and state university and college officials could designate employees to carry concealed firearms, even if such weapons generally were banned in their buildings.

Supporters hoped both chambers would consider the compromise language for each bill Thursday and send the measures to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

The bills represent the Republican-dominated Legislature's response to the mass, fatal school shooting in December in Newtown, Conn., and the discussion among federal officials about gun control measures. Gun-rights supporters also are reacting to new laws pursued in other states, including neighboring Colorado.

"Our fear is that, starting in Colorado, it will spread to California, New York, Vermont," said lead House negotiator Arlen Siegfreid, an Olathe Republican. "We are Kansas, and we want to remain Kansas."

Gun rights advocates enjoy solid legislative majorities in Kansas, and lawmakers haven't seriously discussed requiring background checks on gun purchases or restricting access to some types of weapons and ammunition.

Sen. Tom Hawk, a Manhattan Democrat and one of the negotiators, said he's frustrated by lawmakers' response to gun violence. He said he doubts having more guns in circulation is a solution.

"Instead of looking at significant changes, we're looking at increasing more of the same," he said.

Backers of the bill aimed at the federal government worry that a ban on some military-style weapons will prompt the Obamo's administration to attempt to confiscate them. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, praised Colorado's new gun-control laws as "practical progress" toward curbing gun violence.

The debate comes amid high interest among Kansans in obtaining concealed carry permits, with a record number of applications for permits each of the last three months, with 4,072 in March, according to the attorney general's office.

"There's no doubt: What the Obama administration is doing now has got everybody scared to death," said lead Senate negotiator Ralph Ostmeyer, a Grinnell Republican.

Supporters of the concealed carry bill argue employees with concealed weapons could stop attacks by gunmen more quickly than law enforcement. And while it didn't seek the legislation, the Kansas Association of School Boards isn't objecting because decisions about whether any employees could carry hidden guns would be left to local boards.

"We have a number of schools where response times can be 20 or 30 minutes," association lobbyist Tom Krebs acknowledged.

But Mark Desetti, a lobbyist for the Kansas National Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, said if a school employee has a concealed gun, the weapon should be "locked up and out of the way" to prevent children from gaining access to it.

"How does that help you when someone bursts into a room?" he said. "We need real solutions."

The bill also reflects gun-rights' advocates frustration that cities and counties routinely ban concealed weapons in their buildings simply by posting a sign at entrances. Under the measure, state and local officials couldn't prohibit concealed weapons unless their buildings had electronic equipment and officers to check for weapons.

Officials would have until January to develop security plans, then an additional four years to put them into effect.

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The bill on federal regulation of guns is HB 2199, but the final version will be included in SB 102. The concealed carry measure is HB 2052.

Online:

Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at www.twitter.com/apjdhanna

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