TOPEKA — – The Kansas House has advanced three gun measures, including one that could allow people to carry concealed weapons into some government buildings and another that is meant to bar federal authorities from confiscating firearms made in the state.
One bill would require local governments to either take additional steps to make public buildings secure or allow people to carry concealed weapons inside. Much of Wednesday's debate focused on whether legislators had the right to mandate that local governments put in new security measures and whether allow concealed weapons inside buildings without those devices would make them safer.
Rep. Jim Howell, a Derby Republican, said areas designated as safe zones because they have signs posted that say concealed firearms aren't allowed should better be named “dangerous zones” because they provide a false sense of security.
“Guns aren't the problem. The problem is the people who have the guns,” Howell said.
Opponents said the measure could be costly for local governments, forcing them to choose between spending large sums of money for new security devices or allowing concealed weapons.
“I don't know why the paranoia is running rampant,” said Rep. Louis Ruiz, a Kansas City Democrat.
The measure was one of three bills advanced to final action votes set for Thursday.
Another bill states that the federal government has no power to regulate firearms, ammunition or gun accessories manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas. No major gun manufacturers have production lines in Kansas, so the measure would be aimed at firearms or ammunition made at small machine shops. The measure makes it a felony for a federal agent to attempt to enforce laws, regulations or treaties restricting access to such firearms, ammunition or accessories.
Opponents say the law doesn't pass constitutional muster. Under the U.S. Constitution, federal laws supersede state laws.
A third bill seeks to amend the definition of lawful discharge of a weapon to include use against an attacking wild animal, by law enforcement in the line of duty, shooting at a private range, defending personal property or hunting.
The bill expanding where concealed weapons can be carried would allow state institutions of higher education, government-owned hospitals and nursing homes to still prohibit guns for four years, exempting themselves from the security requirements. Local school boards and university and college presidents could designate employees who could carry concealed weapons inside their buildings. The House amended the bill to include public mental health clinics to the list of exempted entities, as well as allowing concealed weapons to be permitted in the Statehouse.
More than 53,000 people have obtained concealed carry permits since the state began issuing them in 2006. Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office reported that 3,573 people applied for permits in February, up from the previous record of 3,167 in January. Before this year, the previous record was 1,651 applications in March 2012.