Politics & Government

Senate OKs bill limiting local government authority over gun sellers

A bill passed by the Kansas Senate would allow convicted former juveniles to obtain concealed-weapons permits.
A bill passed by the Kansas Senate would allow convicted former juveniles to obtain concealed-weapons permits. File photo

Editor’s note: Earlier versions of this story incorrectly said the Senate vote sent the bill to the governor. The bill was sent to the House, which has since approved it and sent it to the governor.

TOPEKA – The Kansas Senate advanced a bill Monday to limit local government control over gun sellers.

The bill also would allow convicted former juveniles to obtain concealed-weapons permits.

Supporters characterized it as a cleanup bill to fix what they say are problems with a 2014 law that intended to limit city and county governments’ authority to regulate firearms.

The bill would prevent local government from using zoning and taxing authority to regulate the location of gun sellers or to require them to have a local business license. Local governments would still be able to collect sales taxes that are applied to all commercial businesses in a community.

The bill “keeps them from discriminating against gun dealers,” said Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona.

The bill directly affects Sedgwick County clerk and state Republican Party chairman Kelly Arnold, who testified for it in a committee hearing.

The senator who carried the bill, Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, didn’t name Arnold in the debate. But he identified him as the Sedgwick County treasurer, which he later corrected to county clerk with prompting from Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick.

“He (Arnold) doesn’t sell guns on government property or anything like that,” Ostmeyer said. “It’s just the fact that he’s a gun dealer and working there, with the policy what it was, that’s why we need to have this change, so he’d be able to be a gun dealer and still have his job.”

Reached by telephone after the debate, Arnold said Ostmeyer was mistaken in the belief that his gun business threatened his county job. Arnold is an elected official and can’t be fired by county management.

“This is not related to the county clerk position,” he said.

Arnold said he does not have an actual gun shop but does have a federal firearms dealer license. He said he uses it to facilitate the transfer of firearms for customers buying weapons online.

Federal law doesn’t allow firearms to be shipped directly to buyers. The guns must be shipped to a licensed dealer, who has to run required background and identity checks before turning the gun over to the buyer.

Arnold said he grew up in McPherson and operates his gun business there. He said he’s been reluctant to move his gun dealer license to Wichita because of the chance that the city would try to use licensing and zoning powers to regulate him out of what would then be a home-based business.

Arnold said the Legislature took that power away from local government in a 2008 bill sponsored by then-Sen. Phil Journey, who is now a Sedgwick County judge.

But that authority was inadvertently restored last year by a bill sponsored by then-Rep. Jim Howell, who is now a Sedgwick County commissioner. Howell’s bill sought to further restrict local authority over guns but ended up repealing some of the limitations that had been in the Journey bill.

Sen. Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City, led the opposition to the bill on the floor. She said if the city or county requires a business license for a home-based hair salon, it should be allowed to do the same with gun shops.

She characterized the bill as special-interest legislation in which gun dealers are “being put in a special category because they’re gun businesses.”

“I think it’s not good government,” Pettey said. “And in this case, it sounds like we’re doing it because one particular citizen in the state of Kansas asked for it.”

The bill also dealt with concealed carry licenses and convicted juveniles.

Under the 2014 law, juvenile offenders were banned for life from getting a concealed-weapons permit if the crime they committed would have been a felony for an adult offender.

Although the Legislature passed a law this year allowing concealed carry without a permit, the state will still offer permits for those who wish to carry guns in other states that recognize Kansas permits.

Knox said some Kansas residents had their concealed-carry permits revoked after the 2014 law was passed because of crimes they committed when they were teenagers.

“We’ve all made mistakes younger and paid for them when you’re older, I guess,” Ostmeyer said. “I don’t think we’re going to have to worry about people with concealed carry, myself. I think we’re going to find out they’d be more likely to protect (others) with the rights of concealed carry.”

That didn’t convince Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita.

“We are making it a little easier for those who have been convicted of certain crimes to carry (guns) again,” she said. “And although it may be a small handful of individuals, it’s just a few too many for me.”

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.