TOPEKA — Cities and counties would no longer be able to regulate firearms in their communities — such as restricting the open carry of a firearm— under a bill advanced Tuesday by the Kansas Senate.
State Sen. Clark Shultz, R-McPherson, said Senate Bill 447 would make gun regulations uniform across the state and reduce confusion.
But opponents of the bill said the state shouldn’t pre-empt decisions by local officials who are responding to local circumstances.
“Time and time and time again we want to take local decisions away from local government,” said state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, who opposed the measure.
But Shultz said protecting the fundamental right to bear arms was more important than local control.
State Sen. Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City, responded: “There is a basic fundamental right that every citizen needs to feel safe.”
Pettey proposed an amendment to exempt libraries, community centers and community mental health centers from the concealed carry of guns, but that failed on a voice vote.
A law enacted last year says cities and counties can’t ban concealed guns after 2017 unless they’ve provided adequate security, such as metal detectors and security guards. Pro-gun rights senators said people in libraries and community centers should have no fear of those with concealed carry permits.
The bill won preliminary approval on a voice vote. A final vote on the measure is expected Wednesday. If approved, it would go to the House for consideration.
Douglas County Commissioner Mike Gaughan said the proposed bill is an intrusion on local decision-making.
“Every community in Kansas is unique. Local elected officials know their communities best and should be able to take common-sense steps to keep their community safe,” Gaughan said.
“I hear the howls whenever Congress passes laws that change things here in Kansas, but that’s exactly how local governments see the (Gov. Sam) Brownback Administration and the Legislature. Every time we turn around there’s another budget cut or bill from Topeka undermining the local control cities and counties have traditionally had in Kansas,” he said.
The city of Lawrence has no ordinance prohibiting the open carry of a firearm, said Maria Kaminska, an assistant city attorney. But she said, “We think that any decision on public safety should come from the local governing body.”