Archive for Thursday, March 4, 2004

Concealed-gun bill moves ahead

Measure expected to pass House, advance to Senate today

March 4, 2004


— The House tentatively approved a bill Wednesday to allow Kansans to carry concealed handguns after supporters blocked the most serious efforts to water it down.

The vote was 78-43 to advance the measure to final action expected today. The margin suggested the measure will pass and go to the Senate.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has said repeatedly she supported allowing only retired law-enforcement officials to receive concealed carry permits. Spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said Wednesday that if a broader measure passed, "It's doubtful you'd see it signed."

The House bill would require the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to issue concealed-carry permits starting next Jan. 1 to all qualified Kansans who pay a $150 fee.

Kansans would be eligible if they were 21 and American citizens and had completed an eight-hour training course. Convicted felons or people who had been treated for a significant mental illness or drug or alcohol abuse within the past five years would be barred.

House members added a few amendments to narrow the bill's scope, but not enough to frustrate its backers. Proponents said the measure would help Kansans, especially women, defend themselves.

Rep. Peggy Long-Mast, R-Emporia, described herself as a crime victim.

"I want the ability to protect myself," she said. "I know there are other women like me."

Opponents argued the bill would lead to more gun-related violence. But they failed to win support for toughening the requirements for concealed-carry permits or for letting cities and counties retain the right to set their own policies.

Rep. Jim Yonally's voice nearly broke as he spoke about the bill. He said his son survived being robbed in Kansas City in 1992 by handing over his wallet. In the same month, Yonally said, an FBI agent resisted a robbery and was shot with his own handgun.

"If you're not packing a gun, you can't be shot with your own weapon," said Yonally, R-Overland Park. "It happens every day, and it's going to happen here."

Much of the House's debate centered on the measure's details, including where concealed weapons could be carried and who would qualify for a permit.

As endorsed by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, the bill prohibits permits for anyone convicted of a felony against a person, such as aggravated battery or rape. The House voted 66-46 to prohibit permits for anyone convicted of any felony.

The House also voted to ban concealed weapons at the Kansas State Fair and in the Statehouse.

But the House rejected amendments from opponents to require 50 hours of training instead of eight, to allow cities and counties to set their own policies and to make it a felony instead of a misdemeanor to carry a concealed weapon into a business that has a policy against it.

Only Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia do not allow residents to carry concealed weapons, though nine of the remaining 46 states place some restrictions on who can receive a permit.

In Kansas, the Legislature approved a concealed carry bill in 1997, but then-Gov. Bill Graves vetoed it.

The KBI is neutral on this year's bill but has said it should not be placed in charge of issuing permits. The agency estimates it would need nine more employees and an additional $440,000 to handle the task.

The bill is HB 2798.

Among provisions of a bill permitting Kansans to carry concealed handguns:¢ Cities and counties could not approve their own ordinances on the issue.¢ Kansas Bureau of Investigation would be required to issue a permit. Kansans would apply at their county sheriff's office and pay a $150 fee.¢ Permits would be granted only to American citizens at least 21 who had completed an eight-hour training and safety course and were not disqualified because of:1. A "physical infirmity" preventing them from using a gun safely.2. A felony conviction.3. Treatment within the previous five years for alcoholism, drug abuse or a mental illness that resulted in a substantial behavioral or medical problem and "impairment in one or more important areas of functioning."¢ Concealed handguns would be banned in police stations, jails, courthouses, the Statehouse, city halls, schools, universities, mental health hospitals, the Kansas State Fair and bars.

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