Amendment would reaffirm right to bear arms in Kansas

The Kansas Legislature placed the initiative on the ballot in 2009 after a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

09/25/2010 12:00 AM

09/25/2010 9:48 AM

As far as gun measures go, this one hasn't generated much controversy or publicity. Many Kansas voters probably don't even realize that they'll be asked to decide Nov. 2 whether to amend the state constitution to guarantee individuals the right to own firearms.

Activists on both sides of the gun control debate say it's unlikely that anyone will mount an extensive campaign for or against the referendum.

But some gun-rights advocates see it as a must-win vote.

"It went on the ballot, so we have to win it now," said Jim Macklin, a gun-rights advocate from Wichita.

"This is to keep local people from deciding to get into regulating firearms because there's a little loophole someplace.

"If we lose this, you can count on some city council somewhere to come looking for that loophole."

The referendum is a small blip on the radar screen at the Washington-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which supports most gun control measures.

"I think that it's a little bit of a solution in search of a problem, but we're not worked up about it," said Peter Hamm, the group's communications director.

"We don't see that there's a desperate need for a right to keep and bear arms to be protected in the Kansas state constitution, but we basically don't have much of an objection to it."

He said states with similar wording in their constitutions have gun laws that are ranked highly by his organization.

The initiative was placed on the ballot by the 2009 Kansas Legislature in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment grants individuals the right to bear firearms.

Proponents of the legislation said they wanted to make sure the Kansas Constitution would be interpreted the same way.

The state constitution already says, "The people have the right to bear arms for their defense and security."

But those who backed the initiative pointed to a 1905 Kansas Supreme Court decision that said the right to bear firearms was a collective right, not an individual right. They proposed an amendment that would specifically give the right to every Kansan.

The amendment would add the following language to the constitution: "A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and state, for lawful hunting and recreational use, and for any other lawful purpose."

The House passed the resolution in 2009 by a vote of 116-9, far more than the two-thirds majority needed. The Senate adopted the resolution by a vote or 39-1.

Patricia Stoneking of Bonner Springs, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, said she didn't consider the referendum to be controversial.

"All we're doing here is bringing the Kansas Constitution in line with the federal Constitution and in line with the federal Supreme Court's decision," she said.

If the referendum passes, she said, it will have no immediate impact on Kansans' right to own firearms.

"Does it change anything that way ? No," she said. "Could this avoid future court cases? It certainly could."

At the Bullet Stop indoor shooting range at 2625 W. Pawnee on Friday, owner Don Holman placed a stack of fliers supporting the measure on his counter. He said his customers haven't been buzzing about the upcoming vote.

"It hasn't really even been discussed," he said.

Macklin, the gun-rights advocate from Wichita, was at the Bullet Stop on Friday, and he said he doesn't expect gun-rights advocates to pour a lot of money into billboards and television ads.

"I think it's really going to rely on the common sense of the people," he said.

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