Topeka Law-abiding Kansans could carry concealed guns under a bill that passed the Senate by enough votes Thursday to override a veto by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who spiked a similar measure two years ago.
The 29-11 vote - two more than needed to override the Democratic governor - includes six senators from her party. The question is how many will go against her should she veto the measure.
The bill now goes to the House, where Speaker Doug Mays predicted passage. He said overriding a veto is "always difficult" because "the votes tend to evaporate."
Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, said, "If there is a veto, they will be under tremendous pressure to support the governor. I would be surprised if anybody who voted no on the bill will vote to override."
But sponsoring Sen. Phil Journey sees it differently.
"It's either go against the governor or go against their district," said Journey, R-Haysville.
One Democrat, Sen. Jim Barone of Frontenac, said he would go against the governor.
"I have on this issue before and I will again," he said.
Sebelius rejected a nearly identical bill in 2004, saying she didn't believe the measure would make residents safer. Spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said the governor wanted to see the bill before deciding, but noted vetoed bills returning in much the same form can expect the same fate.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, left little doubt about what the governor will do.
"Are we going through an exercise in futility? The real question is whether there are 27 and 84 votes to override a veto because that's a certainty," he said, referring to the two-thirds majority needed by both chambers to void a veto.
Journey, R-Haysville, said that by joining 46 other states that allow concealed guns, Kansans will be safer. He said more than 2 million Americans have concealed-gun permits and predicted about 48,000 permits would be issued in Kansas in the first four years.
"The reality is this isn't a vote about the governor or the elections. It's a vote about freedom," Journey said. "It's about the freedom of Kansans to protect themselves and their families."
Not everyone agreed.
Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, said the bill would result in accidental injuries and deaths.
"I reject his arguments out of hand," Reitz said. "Handguns are for killing people."
The bill lists 17 areas where a concealed gun can't be carried, including law enforcement offices, courthouses, state or local government buildings and schools. Efforts to add churches, veterans hospitals and libraries to that list failed.
Journey said the bill allows such places to post a sign banning firearms from their premises. Violators would face a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
"Who are we to tell churches what they can or can't do?" Barone said. "It would take away the right of a church's self-determination on this issue."
Under the proposal, Kansans who are 21 or older and U.S. citizens could obtain a four-year permit by filling out an application with the 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 past that hurdle, 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 Assn.
The bill would make Kansas among the 36 "shall issue" states, meaning if a person clears the hurdles, the state must issue the permit. Eight other states have "may issue" laws, giving officials latitude. Two states - Alaska and Vermont - have no prohibitions for carrying a concealed weapon.