Category Archives: Guns

Lawmakers want to silence dissent on guns

gunpointingright9Not only are some conservatives in the Legislature bent on blocking any local control of guns, they want to keep local governments from complaining about it. Mike Taylor, a lobbyist for the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kan., testified last week against a bill that would prohibit local governments from banning the open carry of guns and knives and would prevent them from using taxpayer money for gun-buyback programs. After the hearing, Rep. Brett Hildabrand, R-Shawnee, questioned whether Taylor broke a law the Legislature passed last year prohibiting local governments from using tax dollars to advocate for gun regulations. Taylor said this was another attempt to silence dissent in the Statehouse. “We’re seeing that more and more in this building,” Taylor said, “and I think it’s wrong.”

Gun bill takes aim at local control

gunopen-carryA gun bill drafted by Rep. Jim Howell, R-Derby, would make it illegal for cities to use local taxpayer money for gun-buyback programs or to destroy guns that had been confiscated. Kelly Arnold, the Kansas GOP chairman, said gun-buyback programs are an ineffective way to combat street violence and illegal guns. Maybe, maybe not. But why is it the state’s business whether local officials use local money to buy guns from willing sellers? Why it is the state’s business whether local officials destroy guns? It’s more big government from the conservatives in Topeka.

Kansas gun law, impact on Wichita in spotlight

gun3Kansas’ new gun law and its impact on Wichita were featured in a New York Times article last weekend. The Legislature passed a law last year that allows local governments to prohibit concealed guns in public buildings only if they provide adequate security, such as metal detectors and security guards. “There is no municipality in the state of Kansas that can afford those infrastructure costs,” complained Wichita City Council member Janet Miller. Because of cost and liability concerns, the City Council voted last month to allow concealed-carry permit holders to bring guns into most city buildings, including libraries and recreation centers. Kansas and Nevada are the only states forcing local governments to either provide security or allow guns, the Times reported.

No local say on guns in public buildings

gunconcealedThe new state law requiring cities, counties and other public entities to choose between providing costly “adequate security” or allowing concealed-carry of firearms in their buildings is prompting the Wichita City Council and other governing bodies to throw up their hands and welcome the guns, our Friday editorial notes. The day-to-day impact of expanded concealed-carry may be as negligible as that of the 2006 Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act itself. Still, the 2013 legislation makes a joke of local control.

Schmidt’s gun opinion confusing

gun3Is concealed-carry welcome at Kansas polling places? Well, it depends. According to an opinion issued Wednesday by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, whatever the rule in a building the rest of the year will prevail on Election Day, except in the unlikely event that a county rents an entire private building as a polling place. “The use of real property as a polling place does not transform the nature of that property for the purposes of the (Personal and Family Protection Act),” he wrote. But in answering Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s question that way, Schmidt likely has sowed confusion for voters and local election officials. It would be better if Kansas did as Texas and Florida have done, and specifically barred guns at polling places.

KU prof should stop shooting off his mouth

Good for University of Kansas administrators for strongly condemning a Twitter post by a KU journalism professor after the mass shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. David W. Guth tweeted: “The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be your sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.” Timothy Caboni, vice chancellor for public affairs at KU, called Guth’s comment “repugnant,” the Lawrence Journal-World reported. “Like all Americans, he has the right under the First Amendment to express his personal views and is protected in that regard,” Caboni said in a statement. “But it is truly disgraceful that these views were expressed in such a callous and uncaring way.”

Blame Legislature if Comcare newly welcomes guns

Sedgwick County’s plan to open many more of its buildings to concealed handguns comes as no surprise, given the cost of doing otherwise under an intrusive new state law requiring public entities to allow guns in buildings that do not have “adequate security measures” such as metal detectors and armed guards. But it’s sobering that the proposal calls for Comcare, the county’s mental health agency, to allow concealed-carry permit holders to bring guns to its facilities. Maybe creating “additional stress or barriers for people walking in the door to get help just didn’t make sense,” as County Manager William Buchanan put it. But it would have made even more sense if lawmakers had heeded public safety concerns and permanently exempted community mental health centers statewide.

Court backs Holder’s view on gun law

When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wrote Gov. Sam Brownback this spring informing him that the state’s new “Made in Kansas” gun law was unconstitutional, Brownback responded that “the people of Kansas have clearly expressed their sovereign will.” But the courts are siding with Holder. A federal appeals court ruled last week against a similar law in Montana that says that firearms or ammunition that are manufactured in that state and remain within its borders are not subject to federal law or federal regulations. The Ninth Circuit ruled the law was preempted by federal law requiring gun sellers to record transactions, pay license fees and open their business to government inspectors, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Kansas Attorney General’s Office warned lawmakers last session that the law would be unenforceable – but they passed it anyway.

No shock if Brewer is a mayor against illegal guns

If Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer (in photo) didn’t intend to be counted among New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, he should get off the coalition’s website. But it shouldn’t be a shock to any citizen, let alone City Council member turned state Sen. Michael O’Donnell, R-Wichita, that Brewer believes in certain gun restrictions, given his voting record and comments from the bench about allowing concealed and open carry of firearms on city-owned property. Even as the U.S. Supreme Court has expanded gun rights in recent years, by the way, it has said the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms “is not unlimited.” As for O’Donnell’s suggestion on Facebook that the mayor opposes the state and federal constitutions: Give us a break.

Finney wants review of ‘stand your ground’ law

Though she knows it is a long shot, Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, wants the state to revisit its “stand your ground” gun law. “It needs to be looked at and reviewed very closely,” Finney told the Topeka Capital-Journal. She contends that the law “has so many loopholes” that defendants could take advantage of in cases in which self-defense is murky. She also is concerned that it could be used against people who look a certain way. “I’ve often spoke about racial profiling in Kansas,” Finney said. “The problem is really prevalent throughout Kansas, and it seems like it often fell on deaf ears.”

Be careful and safe out there, Kansans

However one chooses to interpret the state’s record-setting 25,340 applications for concealed-carry permits during fiscal year 2013, it means that a lot of Kansans are thinking enough about their safety that they’d like to be able to carry a handgun for personal protection. Now, if only all Kansans will take other precautions, such as by wearing life jackets when boating. It’s a tragedy that 12 people have drowned in state waters since mid-May, including four over the recent long holiday weekend. Plus, as of Wednesday, 17 people had died in traffic accidents this year in Wichita, compared with 14 a year ago at this time and 24 total in 2012. And July in Kansas is no time or place to leave children (or pets, for that matter) unsupervised in a car. Please be careful and safe out there.

Insurance company wants no part in guns at schools

Most school districts across the state, including USD 259, already were planning not to allow employees to carry concealed guns in schools. But the districts have an added financial reason to continue their bans on guns: insurance. EMC Insurance Companies, the state’s main insurer of schools, informed districts that it won’t insure them if they allow employees to carry guns, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. “We are making this underwriting decision simply to protect the financial security of our company,” the company said in a letter to districts. The Wichita district gets its insurance through Lexington Insurance. The company has not said whether it would drop coverage or raise rates if guns were allowed, a district spokeswoman said. Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, who championed gun-law changes, isn’t concerned about the insurance issue. “There are alternative insurers,” he told the Capital-Journal. “The markets are going to take care of this.”

Locals right to take time on state gun mandate

Actions this week by the Wichita City Council and Sedgwick County Commission have confirmed what state lawmakers should have realized – there is a lot to think about when deciding whether and how to allow concealed firearms in public buildings. To allow themselves more time to study their options, the City Council and County Commission voted Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, to ask for six-month exemptions from the state law meant to force locals to accept concealed-carry across their sites. Meanwhile, the Wichita school board will consider a new policy next week to underscore that Wichita schools are gun-free zones even for people with concealed-carry permits – another local reaction that would push back against state action. As Mayor Carl Brewer said: “Just because a state legislator thinks it’s the right thing doesn’t make it right.” Plus, the Legislature would have more credibility on guns if it had gone through with an effort to apply the concealed-carry mandate to the Capitol, but that glaring exemption still stands.

What’s next on lobbying ban?

Rep. Nile Dillmore, D-Wichita, was correct to raise concerns about a bill the Legislature passed this week that bans the use of state money to advocate for or against gun control. Though the prohibition likely would be difficult to enforce, Dillmore fears that it will be an impediment to the conversations that need to go on between entities. And if you can restrict discussions on this topic, what’s next? “This is a very undemocratic and very foolish piece of legislation,” Dillmore said. But that’s what we’ve come to expect from the Legislature.

So they said

“We know who these people are. They’re the good guys. Why would we take the good guys’ right to defend themselves away?” – Rep. Jim Howell, R-Derby, talking on Kansas City public radio station KCUR about the new law allowing concealed-carry in more public buildings

“This is definitely an unfunded mandate. I just don’t like someone telling me what I can do in my house.” – Pratt County Sheriff Vernon Chinn, about the concealed-carry expansion

“We have become a pawn in a game of high-stakes poker.” – Shawn Naccarato, director of community and governmental relations at Pittsburg State University, on how higher-education funding figures into the Statehouse’s sales-tax debate

“Why in the world would we abolish one of the rarest things in American political history, a government program that’s working?” – Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, in the Washington Times, on federal legislation that would repeal the E-Verify immigration-status check system

Why Moran voted against more background checks

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., issued no formal statement about his April 17 vote against bipartisan legislation meant to strengthen background checks for gun buyers. But he told the Baldwin City Rotary Club this week that he didn’t think the measure would have prevented criminals from getting guns and he feared it would have burdened law-abiding citizens. “I have no problem with anyone who is in the business of selling firearms having to do a background check on whomever they sell to. The question is, how do you get to the dad handing the gun off to the son, which is not what we’re after,” said Moran, as quoted by the Baldwin City Signal. (The proposed legislation would not have affected a gun transfer from father to son.) Moran also spoke of the need for more emphasis on mental health at the state and federal levels, calling community-based programs “woefully underfunded.”

Lawmakers were warned that gun law was unconstitutional

That didn’t take long. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (in photo) informed Gov. Sam Brownback that part of a new state gun law is unconstitutional — the provisions saying guns made in Kansas are immune from federal regulation and prohibiting federal officials from enforcing those regulations. “In purporting to override federal law and to criminalize the official acts of federal officers, (the law) directly conflicts with federal law and is therefore unconstitutional,” Holder wrote. State lawmakers were told by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office that the law was unenforceable, yet they passed it anyway, and Brownback signed it into law. Now taxpayers will get stuck paying the legal bills in a losing attempt to defend the law.

Lawmakers pass bad laws; taxpayers get legal bills

It’s amazing how flippant some state lawmakers are about the state’s legal bills, considering them just a cost of doing business. No, they are a cost of making bad laws. The Kansas Attorney General’s Office estimated last week that it will need an additional $1.2 million to defend likely challenges to the state’s new gun, abortion and drug-testing laws. It’s already spent more than $750,000 defending previous abortion laws (and cases are still in the courts). The Attorney General’s Office even told lawmakers earlier in the session that parts of the new gun law couldn’t be enforced and would spur costly lawsuits, but lawmakers passed the bill anyway. It’s as if they are spending other people’s money. No, wait – they are.

Busch beer heir has had it with the NRA

The National Rifle Association won the legislative fight against new gun-control measures but lost one of its prominent members. Adolphus Busch IV, who has been an NRA member since 1975, asked that his name be removed from the NRA membership roles. “The NRA I see today has undermined the values upon which it was established,” he wrote in a letter to NRA president David Keene. “Your current strategic focus places a priority on the needs of gun and ammunition manufacturers while disregarding the opinions of your 4 million individual members” (74 percent of whom, he noted, support universal background checks).

Deputize all Kansas gun owners?

Proponents of the Second Amendment Protection Act, which Gov. Sam Brownback signed last week, see no legal problem with its wording exempting Kansas-made guns from federal laws. But Robert Cottrol, a law professor at George Washington University, told the Huffington Post that the Constitution’s commerce clause generally covers trade within a single state that affects trade in a given industry nationwide. He suggested another way to exempt Kansas gun owners from federal gun laws: “Declare a large number of citizens deputies. That would be in the power of state government.”

Disconnect between Congress, public on guns

Is there a bigger disconnect between Congress and the public than on expanding background checks for gun purchases? National polls show 90 percent or more of the public support expanded checks. Locally, 84 percent support requiring every gun buyer to go through a criminal background check, according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted for KWCH, Channel 12. Yet a carefully crafted measure failed in the U.S. Senate Wednesday, with Kansas Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran among those voting against it.

What would new gun laws accomplish?

New gun laws in some states “appear to be the result of high emotion, not logic and clear thinking,” columnist Cal Thomas argued. “We all ache for the parents and loved ones of the Sandy Hook victims, but the Newtown tragedy shouldn’t be used as a prop for anti-gun proponents, the most extreme of whom want to register or ban all weapons except those for police and certain security people. What will more gun laws really accomplish? Will they keep one criminal bent on carnage from a single school door?”

Moran, Roberts ready to help filibuster gun bill

As President Obama steps up his call for an up-or-down vote on gun restrictions in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School carnage, Kansas Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts and 11 other Senate Republicans are threatening to filibuster any such vote. The senators, led by Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., said in a letter Monday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that they “intend to oppose any legislation that would infringe on the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms, or on their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to government surveillance.” But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he didn’t understand the filibuster threat: “The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand.” McCain asked: “What are we afraid of?”

Lawmakers trust teachers with guns but not dues

Several bills this legislative session reflect a mistrust of public schoolteachers. One bill prevents teachers from having voluntary donations to political action committees deducted from their paychecks. Another bill would weaken teachers’ collective-bargaining rights. Another bill would require them to teach doubts about global warming. Yet when it comes to guns, lawmakers seem to have complete trust in teachers. Under a bill the House approved last week, school boards could allow any employee licensed to carry a concealed handgun to bring a firearm to school.

Gun lobby calling shots in Topeka

This week the Kansas Senate approved Senate Bill 45, which would prohibit the use of public funds to advocate for gun restrictions at the local, state or federal levels. The bill is being pushed by the National Rifle Association, the Kansas State Rifle Association and other gun-rights advocates. The groups are particularly annoyed that the Kansas Board of Regents has opposed efforts to allow guns on university campuses. Meanwhile, the House approved a bill that would require the state, cities, counties and townships to allow concealed-carry permit holders to carry guns in their buildings unless they have electronic equipment and officers to check for weapons at public entrances. The bill also would circumvent the Board of Regents and allow university presidents to designate employees who could carry concealed guns inside their facilities.