Politics & Government

Kansas legislators’ gun debate includes drinking and carrying

You can’t please everybody all of the time.

Rep. Jim Howell, R-Derby, is learning that as he tries to pass comprehensive gun legislation.

House Bill 2473 would make it legal to openly carry a firearm throughout the state of Kansas, striking down any municipal laws that prevent this. It also offers other protections to gun owners, such as prohibiting city governments from asking employees to disclose conceal and carry permits, as Wichita does now for employees who wish to carry.

Rep. Louis Ruiz, D-Kansas City, voiced concerns last week about people carrying guns who have been drinking. Howell tried to fix that, but his solution met with a surprising amount of scrutiny Friday at a hearing before the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs.

Howell added an amendment that prohibits possession of the firearm if a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, much in the way it is illegal to drive a car. The provision already stands for conceal and carry permits, but Howell has extended it to open carriers as well.

"My intent was to say, this is the standard for what is considered driving under the influence. Carrying firearms under the influence ought to be held to the same standard," Howell said.

Howell, one of the Legislature’s most vocal pro-gun advocates, called this common sense. But that doesn’t mean he’s gotten approval yet.

Rep. Erin Davis, R-Olathe, asked whether this amendment meant she would be unable to carry a gun if she was on her prescription medication if it makes her "loopy."

Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association and one of the bill’s biggest supporters, expressed some concern. She asked whether this provision would mean that someone who had wine and was attacked would be prevented from using a gun for self defense.

"If I have two glasses of wine with my dinner I am fully capable of still defending myself," Stoneking said.

Jason Long of the Kansas Office of Revisor of Statutes said self defense law would likely cover a person in this situation if she could prove her life was endangered.

Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Wichita, asked a hypothetical question about what this would mean for men having beers at the end of a hunting trip— provided they have a designated driver.

Long said as long as their guns aren’t loaded, they should be fine.

The committee was originally scheduled to vote on the bill Friday, but ran out of time. The bill will be considered Tuesday instead.