Archive for Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Local authority

A new concealed-carry law seems more focused on overriding local authority than on making the handgun law more consistent or less confusing.

April 17, 2007

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Legislative efforts to clarify the state's concealed-carry handgun law have led to some inconsistencies that lawmakers should address in their wrapup session.

The law passed this session, and vetoed last week by the governor, was intended to make the law allowing licensed Kansans to carry concealed guns more consistent across the state. The net result was to eliminate much of the power of cities and counties to restrict licensed concealed guns and also to add confusion, at least in selected areas of the law.

The biggest problem in the law is a provision that would prevent local governments from banning guns at outdoor venues, including ballparks and stadiums. The law allows such a ban for school athletic events but not for nonschool events, even if they are held at the same location.

Many people, including Lawrence Parks and Recreation officials, don't see why someone needs to bring a gun to a public playing field. Gun advocates argue that there is no reason to fear law-abiding people carrying concealed weapons, but guns at a playing field, where tempers can flare and many youngsters are present, still seems, to many residents, to pose additional danger.

It's also hard to understand how a provision that would ban concealed guns at a field for a school event but not at a parks and recreation or American Legion league game at the same location reduces confusion for licensed gun carriers. It's far easier to post signs and ban guns from a location than to ban guns from some events but not others, even when they are played at the same field.

It's important that the state's concealed carry law be consistent, but it's also important that local governments have some ability to monitor and enforce that law within their borders.

The idea, voiced by some legislators, that it is too difficult for communities to post signs and enforce a gun ban in an unenclosed location makes little sense. It's no harder than enforcing a gun ban at some outdoor school events. Consider the enforcement difficulties posed by a high school cross-country race at nearby Rimrock Farm.

It's also notable that the concealed carry law passed by legislators last year included not only a ban on concealed guns inside the state capitol, but also on the capitol grounds, an area that is no more enclosed than a public park.

A licensed person carrying a concealed handgun now is legal in Kansas - with many exceptions. It makes sense to make the law as consistent as possible across the state, but allowing cities to ban guns both at recreation centers and outdoor ballfields doesn't seem unduly confusing for the Kansas public.

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