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Bill seeks to exempt guns made and owned in Kansas from federal regulations

  • Eagle Topeka bureau
  • Published Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, at 11:18 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, at 7:23 p.m.

— Kansas should pass a law making firearms with “Made in Kansas” stamped on them immune from federal laws – and state authorities should arrest federal agents who try to regulate or confiscate firearms made or owned here, gun rights advocates said Tuesday.

A bill being debated by a panel of House members would attempt to do just that.

But the state attorney general’s office said such a law could lead to costly lawsuits as it tries to assert independence from federal laws. It also could lead to federal agents charging Kansas law officers with obstruction of justice, Assistant Attorney General Charles W. Klebe wrote.

The potential for a state-federal clash is at the core of House Bill 2199, known as the Second Amendment Protection Act.

It also would prevent doctors from asking patients whether they own a gun, except for those treating someone for a diagnosed mental illness.

The attorney general’s office also questioned whether the state could ban that.

“Like any attempt by a state to restrict the speech of any person, this restriction raises issues under the First Amendment’s free speech clause,” Klebe wrote.

Gun-ownership advocates pleaded with members of the Republican-dominated House Federal and State Affairs Committee on Tuesday to approve the bill to protect Kansans from what they see as potentially unconstitutional laws being discussed in Washington.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach said federal gun regulations often rely on firearms moving across state lines, giving the federal government authority. But, he said, the state has rights to regulate things made and owned in Kansas.

“Could this potentially result in a legal fight? Yes,” he said. “But it is a fight worth having.”

About 50 lawmakers, including several Democrats, are sponsoring the bill, assuring its passage out of the committee for a vote in the House, where it is also likely to pass.

Other states' measures

At least 15 other states are considering similar actions aimed at preempting federal gun-control laws, such as those that seek to prevent the proliferation of high-capacity magazines in the wake of the shooting that killed 26 in a Connecticut school late last year.

President Obama has outlined a plan with four major legislative proposals and 23 executive orders to improve enforcement of existing laws and create stricter background checks.

But Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, said she fears Obama’s efforts will go far beyond that and possibly lead to the confiscation of common hunting rifles, including AR-15s, .30-30s and shotguns.

“It’s a slippery slope,” she said.

The Obama administration has emphasized that it is focused on background checks and other less-invasive efforts. It has reiterated that it isn’t seeking to take people’s guns.

“No one’s gonna take anyone’s gun,” Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday during a Facebook discussion with Parents Magazine.

Stoneking said she believes the Obama Administration doesn’t care about the Constitution.

She said the proposed law will open Kansas to new business and jobs in gun manufacturing.

“Making firearms isn’t rocket science,” she said. “It’s been done for a very long time.”

Rep. John Rubin, a Republican from Shawnee who took the lead in writing the bill, told a room packed with gun-rights advocates that the bill puts “real teeth” into protecting individual liberties and shows the Second and 10th Amendments are “alive and well in the state of Kansas.”

The law wouldn’t apply to guns that require more than one person to carry and use, weapons that fire projectile explosives or automatic guns that fire multiple bullets with one trigger squeeze.

Federal tactics

Lawmakers questioned various ways that the federal government could infringe on gun ownership.

Rep. Ken Corbet, R-Topeka, asked whether President Obama could create new taxes on guns that make owning a weapon prohibitively expensive.

Rubin said he thinks there are few things the Obama administration is unwilling to do. “If they can’t get laws passed by Congress, they do try the executive order route,” he said.

Derby Republican Rep. Jim Howell said he has concerns about telling a doctor about gun ownership and whether that information would go into a database. He said he’s worried that mental health information will become public if doctors note gun ownership.

“If you make that connection, it’s a significant disincentive (to get treatment),” he said. “Once that information goes out into society that this person has a mental illness, it will follow that person for the rest of their life.”

Kobach noted that a patient can refuse to answer a doctor’s question, but he said the state could require healthcare providers to include a note on medical forms that reminds people that they don’t have to answer questions about gun ownership.

Timothy W. Wheeler, of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, said doctors who ask about firearm ownership are motivated by “political prejudice against guns and gun owners.”

In his testimony, Wheeler wrote that doctors should ask about firearms only when patients are suicidal, delusional or have other life-threatening conditions where intervention is needed.

Kansas Action for Children opposed the proposed ban on doctors asking patients about firearms.

The organization said about a third of families with children have a gun in the house, and it said that from 2005 to 2010, 40 percent of the 118 homicides of kids in Kansas involved a gun.

“Allowing physicians to raise any and all concerns they have with their patients will help ensure parents are educated on safety measure to keep guns out of harm’s way and prevent accidental shootings,” wrote Christie Appelhanz, a lobbyist with KAC.

Reach Brent Wistrom at 785-296-3006 or bwistrom@wichitaeagle.com.

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