Law enforcement pushes, but lawmakers resist, tougher gun penalties

? A measure that would add years to prison sentences if the offender had a gun was pushed hard Wednesday by law enforcement.

“This bill sends the right message,” Allen County Sheriff Tom Williams told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “All crime is bad, but if you add a gun to the equation, we are going to hammer you.”

Law enforcement officials also said the law may act as to deter some offenders from picking up a gun.

But defense attorneys and key legislators said Senate Bill 248 had serious flaws.

Jennifer Roth, with the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the measure was unconstitutional because the determination of whether a person had a firearm wouldn’t necessarily be submitted to a jury and require the finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Chairman Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, said there are now laws that allow prosecutors to increase charges if a weapon is involved in a crime.

The proposed bill would remove some of that discretion, he said.

Vratil also said he was concerned that the effect of the law would increase the need for more prison capacity.