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Archive for Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Concealed carry

A gun in a purse or pocket may make the carrier feel safer, but what about the rest of us?

February 17, 2004

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It's hard to see how allowing people to carry concealed weapons will make Kansas a safer place.

A person who has a gun tucked into a purse or pocket may feel safer, but, given the risk that the weapon could be turned against them, even that may not reflect reality.

This week, members of the Kansas House Federal and State Affairs Committee will conduct hearings on a bill that would allow licensed Kansans to carry concealed weapons. The bill that was introduced would allow concealed carry throughout the state and wouldn't let local city or county governments override the measure to ban concealed weapons in their communities.

According to Rep. Candy Ruff, D-Leavenworth, one of the bill's 36 sponsors, it's a matter of consistency. "We can't have a change from community to community," she said.

The bill, HB 2798, is informally titled the "Personal and Family Protection Act." The sponsors apparently believe carrying concealed weapons will add to the safety of Kansans and their families. This contention has been the basis for successful efforts to approve concealed weapons laws in other states. Ruff said she decided to join the sponsors specifically after she had heard from victims of sexual assault, many of whom already say they are carrying small pistols in their purses.

"To a woman, they have said they won't go through this again," Ruff said. "They'll do whatever it takes to defend themselves."

Being able to pull out a loaded gun might prevent such an attack, or it might just provide a weapon that could be grabbed by an assailant and used against the original carrier. In any case, aren't there better ways for society to deal with the fears of these women -- or anyone who is so fearful that they think they must carry a concealed weapon?

State law already allows people to openly carry weapons in many public settings. This would seem to be a far more effective deterrent to crime than a concealed weapon.

One of the facets of this bill, which may improve its chances of passage, is the many exceptions it includes. Even people licensed to carry concealed weapons wouldn't be able to do so in any law enforcement office, courthouse or polling place. They also couldn't take a hidden weapon into the meeting of any governmental body, into any school or, notably, into any Kansas legislative meeting. They also would be barred from carrying a concealed weapon into a drinking establishment or if they, themselves, are intoxicated -- a provision that may call for more judgment than the person has at the time.

Employers and businesses could ban concealed weapons from their premises. Security measures to detect would-be violators could be costly, although notices posted at entrances to stores have been used to enforce such bans in other states.

It's unfortunate that some Kansans are so fearful that they feel comforted by the knowledge that they are carrying a weapon that no one else can see. Even if that weapon does provide some additional measure of safety for the person carrying it, it opens up a whole new area of risk for everyone who comes in contact with that person.

Kansans shouldn't have to look around them in a public place and wonder who is carrying a gun and under what circumstances they might pull it out and use it. More guns don't necessarily equate to more safety.

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