Kansas Senate OKs bill voiding local gun rights
Topeka A proposal to strip Kansas cities and counties of their power to regulate firearms and nullify existing local gun ordinances is on track to clear the state Legislature quickly after the Senate approved it Wednesday.
Senators approved the gun-rights bill, 34-2, sending it to the House. Supporters planned to engineer a vote in the House by the end of the week, so that the measure could go to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
The measure would prevent cities and counties from regulating firearms sales or how guns are stored or transported by their owners. It would ensure that gun owners could openly carry their firearms across the state, though local officials still could prohibit open carrying in public buildings.
The bill is being pushed by the Kansas State Rifle Association. Supporters say a patchwork of local regulations confuses gun owners and infringes upon gun-ownership rights guaranteed by the state and U.S. constitutions.
"We want consistency in the law," said Rep. Steve Brunk, a Wichita Republican and the chairman of a House committee that earlier approved a separate but identical bill awaiting action in the chamber.
Brownback said Wednesday only that he'd review the bill if it reaches his desk, but he acknowledged that he's been a strong gun-rights supporter. He's signed gun-rights bills in the past.
The San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence says on its website that most states, including Kansas, already limit the ability of cities and counties to regulate firearms, though they vary widely in how far they go. Only five states — Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — don't expressly pre-empt local regulation, the center said.
In Kansas, even state laws on guns still give local governments some discretion to regulate firearms, and critics of the push to strip them of that authority contend local officials know best what policies will work for their communities.
"Guns have a place, but they do not need to be in the workplace, our libraries or community centers," said Sen. Pat Pettey, a Kansas City Democrat who opposed the bill.
Opposition from some local officials — and the prospects of a lengthy and wide-ranging debate on gun-rights and gun-control proposals — kept House leaders from scheduling a debate on the issue.
But both chambers passed separate versions of a technical bill regulating how law enforcement agencies return confiscated firearms to their owners if they've been cleared of criminal wrongdoing. House and Senate negotiators planned to discuss that bill Wednesday, and Brunk said he'll ask to have the language barring local gun regulations added to it.
That would clear the way for an up-or-down vote on the same package in both chambers this week, with the Legislature's rules preventing lawmakers from offering amendments.
"I'm not going to goof around," Brunk said.