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Kansas Senate passes bill voiding local gun rules

  • Associated Press
  • Published Wednesday, April 2, 2014, at 11:53 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, April 2, 2014, at 11:59 a.m.

— A Kansas proposal seen by the National Rifle Association as a model for stripping cities and counties of the power to regulate firearms is on track to clear the Legislature quickly after the Senate approved it Wednesday.

Senators approved SB 447 by a vote of 34-2. Supporters were working toward a vote in the House by the end of the week, so that the measure could go to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

The bill would prevent cities and counties from regulating firearms sales or how guns are stored or transported by their owners. It would ensure that gun owners could openly carry their firearms across the state, though local officials still could prohibit open carrying in public buildings.

The bill is being pushed by the Kansas State Rifle Association. Supporters say a patchwork of local regulations confuses gun owners and infringes upon gun-ownership rights guaranteed by the state and U.S. constitutions.

"We want consistency in the law," said Rep. Steve Brunk, a Wichita Republican and chairman of a House committee that earlier approved a separate but identical bill still awaiting action in the House.

Brownback said Wednesday only that he'd review the bill if it reaches his desk. He acknowledged that he has been a strong gun-rights supporter.

Both the National Rifle Association and the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence say 43 states, including Kansas, already significantly limit the ability of cities and counties to regulate firearms, though they vary widely in how far they go.

The center says California and Nebraska have narrow pre-emption laws that leave substantial power to local officials and five — Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — don't expressly pre-empt local regulation.

John Commerford, a National Rifle Association lobbyist, said the legislation being considered in Kansas could become "model pre-emption in firearms law."

Critics of the measure contend local officials know best what policies will work for their communities.

Opposition from some local officials — and the prospect of a lengthy and wide-ranging debate on gun-rights and gun-control proposals — kept House leaders from scheduling a debate on the issue.

But both chambers passed separate versions of a technical bill regulating how law enforcement agencies return confiscated firearms to their owners if they've been cleared of criminal wrongdoing. House and Senate negotiators discussed that bill Wednesday and agreed to add the language barring local gun regulations to it.

The move clears the way for an up-or-down vote on the same package in both chambers this week, with the Legislature's rules preventing lawmakers from offering amendments.

"This body is determined to pass a gun bill that takes away local control and mandates their wishes onto cities and counties, and I think they're going to find any way that they can to make that happen," said Mike Taylor, a lobbyist for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., which bans the open carrying of firearms.

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