TOPEKA — Schools across Kansas could pick teachers or other employees who could carry concealed guns under a measure approved by lawmakers on Friday.
And Kansas-made guns would be immune from federal regulations within state borders under the Second Amendment Protection Act also approved by lawmakers.
Both bills now head to the governor’s desk for his signature.
The concealed-carry bill, HB 2052, also prevents local governments from prohibiting weapons unless they have security guards and metal detectors at public entrances. But it gives government leaders the opportunity to avoid that law for four years to develop security measures required to ban guns.
Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, said the proposal isn’t a reaction to recent mass shootings in Connecticut and Colorado. He and other supporters say the expansion of places licensed Kansans can take firearms is part of a years-long push to make public buildings safer, because criminals will ignore signs that ban guns anyway.
Several Wichita school board members have said it’s unlikely they’ll appoint gun-toting teachers in local schools.
The bill got strong approval from the newly minted conservative Republican Senate in a 32-7 vote and in the House in a 104-16 vote.
Sen. Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan, said the recent anniversary of the violent death of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave him pause when considering the expansion of gun laws.
“My personal hope in my life – both here and I hope with all of us – is that we might promote a safer and less violent world,” he said. “And for me, having an expansion of weapons, even for good reasons, does not get to the kind of world that I want to live in.”
The bill makes it legal for public employees with security access cards to carry firearms into workplaces even if those workplaces are posted as no-gun areas. Instead, it leaves it to employers to use their own rules to discipline those who violate workplace policy.
The proposal also would allow licensed gun carriers to take firearms into the Capitol after July 2014 if state officials determine that new security measures aren’t adequate. Lawmakers on both sides say security will likely be much better after Statehouse renovations are completed by the end of 2013.
Hawk noted the Senate’s recent passage of a law allowing alcohol in the Capitol for approved events, a move supporters said would likely be limited to the re-opening of the Statehouse after renovations are finished.
“It’s not that I don’t trust you guys,” Hawk said. “But if we happen to have too good of a celebration and have spirited debates, I don’t want to be intimidated. As Sen. (David) Haley once said, ‘An armed society is a polite society.’ I don’t want to see an armed Senate that is overly polite and not able to have the right kinds of debate.”
House lawmakers approved the Second Amendment Protection Act, SB 102, in a 96-24 vote, declaring Kansas-made guns immune from federal regulations inside the state. The Senate approved it 35-4.
Fears of the federal government coming to take Kansans’ guns dominated the debate, with Rep. Allan Rothlisberg, R-Grandview Plaza, pointing to the 1993 federal siege on a compound in Waco and the 1992 Ruby Ridge standoff and sniper shooting in Idaho as examples of the federal government attacking citizens.
“This state, along with many others, should be sending a message that we’re going to protect our citizens, even from the federal government if need be,” he said. “If a citizen is protecting themselves against federal agents where they come in for no reason whatsoever, that person should not be prosecuted.”
Rep. Arlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe, said Kansas has to defend its sovereign rights.
“We have to have some groundwork to get the attention of the federal government,” he said.
Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene, said the Legislature should remove criminal penalties for federal officers.
“It just doesn’t sound right. We’re going to arrest federal officers and charge them with felonies? I used to be one. And the bottom line is that if we pass this, I know law enforcement, I was in it for many years, they’re going to laugh about it.”