Politics & Government

April 23, 2014

Kansas governor signs gun legislation

A bill that will bar local governments from enforcing local gun ordinances and make gun laws uniform across the state has been signed by the governor.

A bill that will bar local governments from enforcing local gun ordinances and make gun laws uniform across the state has been signed by the governor.

HB 2578 also will prevent local governments from restricting open carry.

“Kansans have long believed the right to bear arms is a constitutional right,” Gov. Sam Brownback said in a short statement announcing the signing Wednesday.

The bill passed with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. Rep. Jim Howell, R-Derby, who sought the bill, said he was gratified by the governor’s signing.

He said the legislation supports responsible gun ownership. It includes a provision that prohibits someone from carrying a gun while intoxicated, similar to laws against drunken driving.

“This bill had in it something for everybody in a sense. People who really want to see gun freedom extended in our state should be very happy with this bill,” Howell said. “At the same time people who want more safety around firearms and more teeth for our law enforcement ... those people really are also fans of this bill because it creates clarity on their end also.”

He said the bill ensures that concealed carry and open carry are treated equally. If a college campus, for example, has a policy against concealed weapons that would also apply to open carry, Howell said.

The bill received significant support from gun advocacy groups, such as the Kansas State Rifle Association.

“I feel pretty victorious today,” said Patricia Stoneking, the association’s president, who worked closely with Howell to craft and pass the bill.

The law, which will become effective in July, will make life easier for both gun owners and law enforcement officers, Stoneking said.

“Now everyone will know there’s a uniform statewide law and that’s all they have to be familiar with. As people are traveling across Kansas from one jurisdiction to another, you know, they don’t have to worry about what local ordinances say in regards to carrying or transporting firearms,” Stoneking said.

“They just need to know what that state law is. And that’s a much easier proposition for the gun owners than having to figure out a whole lot of local ordinances,” she added.

However, the Kansas Association of Counties says the bill reduces local control and also impedes municipal employers from maintaining a safe workplace.

Local officials are closer to the people and should have the right to decide whether to regulate weapons, said Melissa Wangemann, general counsel for the association.

“The fact is each county might have a different perspective on this. I’ve certainly got rural counties that are quite comfortable with guns in the courthouses and they know that their community is comfortable with that,” Wangemann said. But she added that other counties see a need for local gun ordinances and should be able to establish and enforce them.

The newly signed bill also prohibits municipal employers from collecting information on whether employees have permits to conceal and carry. That will eliminate a city of Wichita policy that requires employees to disclose if they plan to carry a weapon on the job.

Wangemann said this change hurts the ability of public employers to maintain a safe workplace while not applying to private employers.

“The concern is say you’re the roads supervisor in a county and you’re firing someone, you know, you might want to know if the person’s carrying a gun on them,” Wangemann said.

“We just think as employers we have some duty to preserve the safety of our offices and it’s probably good to know who has a gun on them in the office and we are prohibited from that now under this legislation,” she said.

Howell said employers aren’t prohibited from asking, but that employees should not be required to answer.

“If they want to disclose that to someone, they have that right, but they don’t have to disclose it to anybody other than law enforcement, according to state law,” Howell said, adding that is private information. “Here’s the reality. If it’s concealed, nobody should even know about it.”

If public employers have a question about whether an employee is carrying a gun legally, he said, they have the option of calling law enforcement.

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