Friday, January 31, 2014

Kansas House committee hears bill that would override local concealed carry laws in favor of single statewide law

By ASHLEIGH TIDWELL, The Lawrence Journal-World

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee began a two-day hearing Thursday regarding a house bill that would reverse local concealed carry laws in favor of a single statewide concealed carry law.

Also included in House Bill 2473 are regulations amending laws on the criminal use of weapons, a ban on using tax dollars to fund firearm buyback programs and an expungement clause that would allow those convicted under previous concealed carry regulations to clear their records of the crime.

Proponents of the bill say that it would clarify confusion about the laws by providing one set of regulations for residents to abide by.

Earl McIntosh, of the Kansas Libertarian Party, said that with the current regulations “a person could be following the law in one county and be breaking the law in another without even knowing.”

Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas Rifle Association, also testified in favor of the bill, saying that people have no idea what the regulations are and points out that most jurisdictions don’t post regulations online, making it difficult for people to learn what the laws are.

“Our citizens have the right to travel through counties without fear of unknowingly violating county or city laws,” Stoneking said in an interview. “We need to bring uniformity to the law and put it in line with the Kansas Constitution.”

Opponents of the bill, however, see this as a restriction on local authorities.

Eric Smith, legal council for the League of Kansas Municipalities, said that though there are some aspects of the bill he supports, such as clarifying what constitutes criminal use of weapons, he believes that the issue as a whole is a decision that should be made at the local level.

Douglas County Commissioner Mike Gaughan said that the bill is stripping the authority of the local government.

“Once again the Legislature is trying to restrict the ability of local governments to make their own decisions,” Gaughan said.

The committee has not yet set a date to debate the bill. The hearing will continue at 9 a.m. Friday where opponents of the bill will testify.