Topeka A Texas legislator whose parents died in a 1991 shooting spree in a cafeteria urged a Kansas Senate committee to endorse a bill that would allow Kansans to carry concealed weapons.
The Federal and State Affairs Committee is reviewing a House-passed measure that would require the state to issue concealed-carry permits to any Kansan who qualifies and pays a $150 application fee. People would qualify 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.
Texas state Rep. Suzanna Hupp told the committee she wished 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 rammed 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 such a statute, though nine states put some restrictions on residents' ability to receive a permit.
"If you can imagine -- sitting there, like a fish in a barrel, waiting for it to be your turn," Hupp said.
The committee planned to hear from opponents of the bill today. In the past, they have argued that enacting a concealed-carry law would lead to an increase in gun-related violence.
But Rep. L. Candy Ruff, a primary sponsor of the bill, 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," said Ruff, D-Leavenworth.
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.
This year's bill contains a list of places where it would remain illegal to carry concealed guns, including courthouses, jails, prisons, polling places, bars, taverns, the Statehouse and the Kansas State Fair.
Sen. John Vratil, a Federal and State Affairs Committee member, said he would like to see churches added to the list. He also said he wonders why the right to carry concealed weapons would be limited to U.S. citizens.
"I think we've got a form of discrimination here," said Vratil, R-Leawood.