Archive for Sunday, March 23, 1997


March 23, 1997


State Sen. Sandy Praeger predicts a close vote next week on putting the concealed weapons issue on the fall 1998 ballot.

Responding to a call of a domestic disturbance where a gun might be involved, Lawrence police went to an apartment last week in the 1700 block of West 24th.

In questioning people in the area, they came across a man who may not have been involved but was leaving the area, according to Sgt. Susan Hadl.

The man was carrying a concealed handgun -- a Class A misdemeanor in Kansas -- and he was promptly arrested, she said.

Legislation expected to be debated in the Kansas Senate next week would let Kansans voters decide in 1998 whether to make it legal to carry such weapons.

"It will probably be a fairly close vote," said Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence.

Praeger, who is opposed to making concealed weapons legal, said she thought the measure might draw support from some opponents who think, like Gov. Bill Graves, it's an issue the people should decide.

Praeger said she will stay consistent and vote against the measure.

"I have always opposed concealed carry," Praeger said. "And the polls show that's what the majority of Kansans believe. Putting it to the ballot would be expensive and I think the outcome will be that the voters reject it."

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, who represents western Douglas County, said he will support a public vote on the issue.

"I think it's important that we place this issue on the ballot and let people vote on it," Hensley said.

The measure needs 27 votes to pass in the 40-member Senate, or a two-thirds majority. Praeger said if it passes, she and others who fear the possible proliferation of guns will have to work against its approval statewide.

"I feel more threatened thinking that there are people walking down the street with guns in their pockets or purses than I feel threatened now," Praeger said.

Current law allows people to carry a weapon in their car and allows them to carry a concealed weapon in their place of business if they are the proprietor and on their own property.

A different bill approved by the Kansas House would make it legal to carry a concealed weapon if you go through an extensive licensing procedure and firearms training course. That bill is up for a hearing Monday in the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee.

Hensley said he supports the concept of the House bill, but will reserve judgment to see what it looks like when it comes out of the Senate panel.

Praeger said she also opposes the House bill.

"You can't train somebody in a firearms safety course to be able to handle a weapon in a highly emotionally charged situation," she said. "Police officers who deal on a daily basis with tension-filled situations still have a problem when they have to pull their gun and fire on someone."

Douglas County Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney Tonkovich said she was interested in seeing the final versions of the bills before making comments.

"I do have concerns about how the bill will be administered," Tonkovich said. "I have concerns about the safety of law enforcement officers working in the field."

Tonkovich said under current law, carrying a concealed handgun is a Class A misdemeanor, which can carry a penalty of up to a year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.

The Lawrence police department makes concealed weapons arrests, such as the one last week in Lawrence, from time to time, Hadl said.

"We do take about one gun a week related to a criminal matter. And at least as many are turned in as found property," Hadl said. The guns remain in police custody until the conclusion of any criminal judicial matters, she said.

While the Lawrence Police Department has taken no stand on the concealed weapons issue, Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson has been strongly opposed.

Anderson, who has testified before the House and Senate Federal and State Affairs committees, has said putting more guns on the street would create more problems.

Law enforcement officers now make a "shoot/don't shoot" decision when dealing with a crime situation, he said.

If a bystander decided to pull out his or her weapon, it would create confusion, he said.

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