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Archive for Friday, March 26, 1999

GUN BILL TRIGGERS DEBATE

March 26, 1999

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The president of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce said that an internal survey found overwhelming opposition to a bill that would allow Kansans to carry concealed weapons.

From Staff and Wire Reports

Topeka -- An Overland Park woman told legislators Thursday that if the state had allowed her to carry a concealed handgun, she might not have been raped.

"Which one of you could have been there for me when I was attacked?" Jan Exby asked members of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee. "None of you could have been there."

Exby and several other witnesses gathered at the Statehouse to express their views on a bill that would let law-abiding Kansans carry concealed handguns, now illegal under Kansas law. The committee took no action on the House-passed bill.

Gary Toebben, president of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, submitted a written statement to the committee saying the chamber surveyed its 534 members and found that 74 percent oppose the legislation.

"When 74 percent of our members agree on something, we listen," the statement said. "Our members do not believe that concealed carry will make our community a safer place to live. And they do not want their customers and employees carrying concealed weapons into their places of business."

Supporters said the proposal would promote personal safety and lower crime because criminals wouldn't know who might be armed. They also said it would allow them to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms.

Opponents, including Senate Majority Leader Tim Emert, spoke at a Statehouse news conference during a recess of the hearing, saying the bill would only increase the number of guns on the streets.

"Passing this legislation will increase the likelihood of being involved in a shootout," said Emert, R-Independence.

Some legislators have said that passing the bill is a waste of time because Gov. Bill Graves vetoed similar legislation in 1997 and has said he hasn't his mind.

The bill would authorize the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to issue licenses allowing people to carry concealed handguns starting Jan. 1, 2000.

Applicants would have to be 21 or older, complete a weapons safety and training course, and have no history of mental illness or drug or alcohol abuse in the previous five years. In addition, applicants could not have any felony convictions or be subject to a restraining order under the Protection from Abuse Act.

Kelly Johnston, who heads Safe State, a group opposed to the bill, said a study published earlier this week by the Violence Policy Center debunks the argument that allowing concealed handguns decreases crime.

The study said Texans holding concealed handgun licenses have been arrested 2,080 times over a two-year period, including 28 charges of rape or sexual assault and 15 charges of murder or attempted murder.

At the news conference, the Rev. Jesse Brown of Kansas Ecumenical Ministries said the bill would worsen America's "worshipping of guns."

The committee also considered a bill that would prohibit local governments from filing lawsuits to recover damages from firearms or ammunition makers, distributors, dealers, sellers or trade associations.

Scott Hattrup, an Overland Park attorney, said allowing local governments to file hefty lawsuits could force Kansas businesses in the gun and ammunition industry to close, including Wichita Arms, CZ-USA in Kansas City and Hodgdon Powder Co. in Herington.

Don Moler of the League of Kansas Municipalities said the bill strips away a fundamental power of local government and singles out an industry for legal protection.

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