Gun Control Bills Die in Kansas, Day After Student Walkout

by | March 16, 2018

By Jonathan Shorman

Kansas lawmakers rejected a series of gun control measures one by one on Thursday, the day after students nationwide walked out of class to protest school shootings.

The sprawling debate demonstrated the Legislature remains solidly in favor of gun rights.

A shooting in Parkland, Fla., killed 17 people last month. That led to walkouts Wednesday across the country and in Kansas, including at the Kansas Capitol.

Thursday, senators voted against more than half a dozen measures, including:

-- Prohibiting rifle purchases for people under 21

-- Imposing a three-day waiting period on some gun purchases

-- Allowing public colleges to decide whether to allow concealed weapons

Senators did unanimously pass a bill making it a state crime for people convicted within the past five years of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense to have a firearm.

They also passed a bill requiring Kansas to recognize conceal-carry permits from other states, 25-15.

The defeated gun control measures came in the form of amendments to that bill.

Kansas has among the least-restrictive gun laws in the country. The state doesn't require permits to carry concealed weapons. Public colleges and universities can't prohibit concealed weapons, and guns are allowed in the Capitol itself.

"It's not a question of if Kansas is going to get its own Parkland or Columbine or Sandy Hook, it's a matter of when," said Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City.

Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, said the facts are on the side of gun rights. Over the past few decades, mass shootings often come in so-called gun free zones, he said.

"I don't think there's anybody in this room that doesn't agree that those are significant tragedies and things need to be done," Masterson said. "The issue comes in, what is the solution? And with the human condition, in the end there is no real solution."

An effort to allow public universities to decide whether to allow concealed weapons failed. Public colleges and universities have been required to allow concealed weapons since last summer.

Sen. Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan, said he brought forward the amendment in case anyone's minds had changed over the past year. But senators supportive of allowing concealed weapons on campus pointed to a falling crime rate at the University of Kansas.

One amendment that would have prohibited rifle purchases by people under 21 provoked a split over the rights and privileges of young adults. Holland noted 18- and 19-year-olds aren't allowed to drink.

The right to bear arms is protected by the U.S. Constitution, while drinking is not, said Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, R-Galena.

Another amendment would have required a three-day wait to purchase some firearms and required background checks.

"This is only a delay in purchasing a firearm. Not saying you can't, just a delay to make sure you don't have that mental issue or previous conviction of domestic violence," said Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita.

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, a Leavenworth Republican who is running for Congress, said at times safety measures can be counterproductive. Driving home his point, he said that in the case of a helicopter that crashed in New York earlier this week, passengers died after they were unable to break free of their safety harnesses.

He called a proposal for a three-day waiting period after gun sales "over the top."

"It sounds like it's a wise thing, but for the young single mother whose enraged boyfriend is on his way over -- now -- she needs something more than to be able to dial the police. She needs something more than a protection order. She needs something more than a lock on the door. But she'll have to wait three days," Fitzgerald said.

When the bill passed the House, it allowed 18-year-olds to have concealed weapons with a permit. A Senate committee stripped out that provision before sending it to the floor.

Under current law, people 21 and up can carry concealed weapons.

(c)2018 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.)