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Archive for Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Committee sends concealed gun bill to Senate floor

February 8, 2006

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— Legislation allowing law-abiding Kansans to carry concealed guns was sent Tuesday to the Senate floor, but it's similar to a proposal spiked by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius two years ago.

While the bill has more than enough support in the Legislature, the question is what the governor will do when it reaches her desk. For now, she's saying she will reserve judgment until she sees it.

The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee voted to send the measure to the chamber with little debate.

Sponsoring Sen. Phil Journey said the measure probably will be amended before it reaches the governor.

As for what he thinks it will take to sell the bill to Sebelius, Journey, R-Haysville, said, "I need to ask her. I don't know what she's looking for."

Journey said he wanted to start with a version that has been passed by the House and Senate but wants a version acceptable to all.

"I want it to be reasonable. I don't want a bad bill," he said. "I want Kansans to be able to protect themselves and their families."

In vetoing a similar bill two years ago, Sebelius said she supported Kansans' right to own guns but didn't believe the legislation would make the state safer. In 1997, then-Gov. Bill Graves also vetoed a similar bill, saying it would mean more injuries and deaths from accidental shootings.

Under the proposal, Kansas residents who are 21 or older and are U.S. citizens could obtain a permit by filling out an application with their local sheriff and paying a fee of up to $150.

The attorney general's office would issue the permits after conducting background checks to eliminate those with a felony record, a history of mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction, or a physical infirmity that would prevent the safe handling of a weapon.

Once approved, the person would be required to complete an eight-hour safety and training course by a firearms instructor certified by the attorney general or the National Rifle Association, which backs the bill.

Forty-six other states have laws allowing for the carrying of a concealed weapon, and more than 2 million Americans are licensed. Aside from Kansas, only Illinois, Nebraska and Wisconsin prohibit concealed guns.

If the bill passes, Kansas would join 36 "shall issue" states, meaning if a person clears all the hurdles, the state must issue the concealed gun permit.

Eight other states have "may issue" laws, giving officials latitude. Two states - Alaska and Vermont - have no prohibitions for carrying a concealed weapon.

The bill has its detractors.

Some law enforcement officials say it's flawed because eight hours isn't enough time to properly train someone to use a handgun.

Local governments are against the bill because they say it supersedes their right to regulate concealed weapons.

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