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Archive for Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Senator says concealed carry bill is flawed

March 16, 2004

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— A member of the Senate committee reviewing a bill permitting Kansans to carry concealed handguns says the measure is flawed, in part because it does not prohibit hidden guns in churches.

Sen. John Vratil said Monday that churches should be added to the list of places where carrying concealed weapons still would be illegal even if the bill passes.

Vratil, R-Leawood, serves on the Federal and State Affairs Committee, which opened hearings Monday on the House-passed measure, which would require the state to issue concealed carry permits to any Kansan who qualifies and pays a $150 application fee.

The committee planned to hear testimony Tuesday from opponents.

Under the measure, people would qualify for a concealed-carry permit if they were 21 and American citizens, had undergone eight hours of gun training and did not suffer from a mental illness or drug and alcohol addiction.

Concealed handguns would be prohibited in courthouses, jails, prisons, polling places, bars, taverns, the Statehouse and the Kansas State Fair.

"I think most people would say you should not be allowed to carry concealed in church," Vratil said during an interview.

Vratil also said he wonders why the right to carry concealed would be limited to U.S. citizens.

"I think we've got a form of discrimination here," said Vratil, R-Leawood.

The Legislature approved a concealed carry bill in 1997, but then-Gov. Bill Graves vetoed it. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has said she supports concealed carry only for retired law enforcement officers and probably would not sign a broader bill.

Earlier this month, the House approved the bill, 78-45. Supporters were six votes short of a two-thirds majority, which is required to override a gubernatorial veto.

On Monday, Rep. L. Candy Ruff, a primary sponsor of the bill, sought to allay concerns that the bill would lead to more gun-related violence. She said in other states, 1 percent or fewer residents typically seek concealed carry permits.

"We are talking about law-abiding citizens," she said. "They are not the type of people who are involved in road rage."

Also among the witnesses Monday was Texas state Rep. Suzanna Hupp, whose parents died in a 1991 shooting spree in a cafeteria.

Hupp told the committee she wishes she'd had her gun with her when she and her parents dined at a Luby's restaurant in Killeen, Texas, in October 1991. She'd left her gun in her car, something she realized only after a man ran his truck into the building, got out and started shooting.

She said she was not carrying the gun in her purse because she didn't want to break the law and lose her chiropractor's license. She acknowledged that if she had her gun, she might not have hit the assailant but added she would have at least changed the situation. Twenty-three people died, including her parents.

"I'm angry, as you can tell," she said. "I was mad at hell at my legislators, because I felt they had legislated me out of my right to protect myself."

Hupp, a Republican, first won her seat in the Texas House in 1996, having already become a vocal gun rights advocate.

Texas enacted a concealed carry law in 1995, and only Kansas, Illinois, Nebraska and Wisconsin do not have them, though nine states put some restrictions on residents' ability to receive a permit.

In other action:

-- Some senators, including Vratil, said they are worried that a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution to ban gay marriage is too broad.

-- The House tentatively approved a bill to establish the Horse Thief Reservoir benefit district, a step toward creating a new lake in southwest Kansas.

-- The Senate gave first-round approval to a bill creating a new program to help grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

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