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Kansas Would Loosen Gun Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (CN) - Kansas lawmakers want to allow public employees to bring concealed handguns to work and, in another proposed law, let people carry concealed weapons without a permit.

Senate Bill 65 , introduced on Jan. 22, would require "public employers" to allow workers who have Kansas concealed-carry permits to carry concealed handguns on the job. The bill has been referred to the state Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs,

The bill defines public employers as "any state agency, department, board, commission, institution or bureau and any city, county or other municipality that employs one of more individuals."

Kansas law already allows private and public employers to choose whether to prohibit or allow employees with concealed carry permits to bring handguns into work buildings under specific restrictions based on signage and the building's security system.

S.B. 65 would amend the law to "require" public employers to allow employees with concealed carry permits to carry concealed handguns while working away from the office. For example, a city water department manager could not stop a meter reader from carrying a concealed handgun on his or her route as long as that employee holds a concealed carry permit in Kansas.

"This bill simply specifies that public employees be afforded the right to carry while engaging in the business of their employer when driving or riding in an employer or employee-owned vehicle or while away from the office performing the duties of their job," said Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, in testimony to the Federal and State Affairs Committee last week.

"Adequate security certainly cannot be provided by any means when these employees are traveling outside of the office, and they should be allowed to take responsibility for their own safety," Stoneking said.

Mark Tallman, associate executive director for advocacy for the Kansas Association of School Boards, asked the committee to amend the bill to specifically exclude public schools.

"Municipality is not defined as to whether school districts are included," said Tallman, who pointed out that Kansas law already excludes school districts from the definition of municipality. "As a result, we believe the bill does not apply to school districts and their employees. However, in the interest of clarity, we suggest the definition in this bill should be amended to specifically exclude school districts."

The Kansas Association of School Boards is neutral on S.B. 65 but would oppose the bill if school districts are not exempted, Tallman told Courthouse News Service.

Senate Bill 45 , introduced in January by Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, would eliminate altogether the state requirement for permits to carry concealed handguns. Since the Legislature approved the Personal and Family Protection Act in 2006, more than 90,000 Kansans have applied for concealed carry licenses.

Kansas law requires applicants for a concealed carry permit to complete an approved handgun safety and training course and submit to a state and national criminal background check.

Kansans can legally carry an unconcealed firearm without a permit. Senate Bill 45 would amend concealed carry laws to allow the concealed carry of a firearm without a license issued by the state "as long as that individual was not prohibited from possessing a firearm under either federal or state law."

According to a supplemental note on S.B. 45: "Concealed carry licenses would still be issued by the state, but the availability of those licenses could not be construed to prohibit the carrying of handguns without a license, whether carried openly or concealed, loaded or unloaded."

"There truly is not a reason why you need the government's permission to protect yourself or defend your family," Bruce told the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee during testimony on S.B. 45 last week.

Stoneking added in testimony: "The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article IV of the Kansas Constitution never imply in any way that citizens should have to comply with government applications, mandatory classes, testing or paying fees to exercise that right. It is unmistakably an unalienable and natural right for citizens to exercise self-defense."

Senate Bill 45 repeals the permit requirement to carry a concealed handgun but "leaves all other regulations and the permitting process intact," Stoneking said. "In essence, this bill simply allows for law-abiding citizens, aged 21 and over, to carry a concealed handgun without having to pay the government for permission."

S.B. 45 is sponsored by a majority of the Republican-controlled Senate and House.

Brian Malte, national policy director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, has seen majority opinion on gun laws change before, he told Courthouse News Service.

"At some point, common sense takes place," Malte said. "Unscreened, untrained people carrying more loaded guns in public is a terrible idea. It creates a situation where you have no background check or screening. That's part of the screening process - to keep dangerous people from carrying a gun."

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