Committee turns down capitol gun ban

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A House committee on Wednesday turned back an effort to ban concealed handguns in the Kansas Capitol.

The Federal and State Affairs Committee rejected a proposal by Democratic state Rep. Boog Highberger that would have reversed a 2014 law  that opened the door for bringing guns into the building.

Highberger wanted his amendment to replace a bill authorizing Kansas to recognize a valid permit to carry a concealed firearm from other states.

“I think this amendment is timely given the recent events at our nation’s Capitol,” the Lawrence legislator said.

“People with bad intent, like the people who recently stormed our nation’s Capitol, could  waltz through security with loaded firearms,” he said.

“I don’t how many of you are packing in here today, but if I had to choose between having these folks stopped at the front door by the Capitol Police or relying on you to defend me with your pistols, I’d rely on the Capitol Police,” he said.

The committee also rejected an effort by Democratic state Rep. Jo Ella Hoye of Lenexa to repeal a state law that allowed concealed-carry without a license.

Hoye’s amendment would have reinstated requirements for permits and training to carry a concealed gun.

Republicans said they didn’t see a need for the proposed ban on guns in the Capitol, adding that someone with ill intent would ignore the prohibition.

Republican state Rep. Blaker Carpenter of Derby estimated that there are 20 to 30 lawmakers carrying concealed handguns on the House floor at any given time.

“We’ve never had any issues with someone pulling out their firearm or doing anything horribly because we’re responsible gunowners,” Carpenter said.

“Nobody has threatened anybody coming in here with a firearm and concealing past security,” Carpenter said.

“They’re trying, I think, to connect the Kansas Legislature with the U.S. Capitol and the insurrection that happened up there, and I think it’s apples and oranges,” he said.

“They are searching for a solution to something that isn’t a problem,” he said.

Currently, visitors to the Capitol go through a security checkpoint, but they can carry a concealed handgun into the building.

Seven years ago, in June 2014, the Legislative Coordinating Council — made up of the Legislature’s top leaders — was given the opportunity under the law to decide whether to allow concealed-carry in the Capitol.

The LCC met that month and didn’t take action, clearing the way for concealed handguns to be carried in the Capitol.

A year later, the law was broadened to allow the carrying of concealed handguns in the Capitol regardless of whether someone had a permit.

Currently, 23 state capitols allow visitors to carry some type of firearm and the number is expected to increase to 25, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center, a pro-gun research group.

In early January, however, the Michigan Capitol Commisison voted to ban the open carry of guns inside the Michigan Capitol, effective immediately.

Critics said the ban should have extended to all firearms in the Michigan Capitol, regardless of whether they are carried openly.

Four years ago, the issue of guns in the Capitol surfaced when former Republican state Rep. Willie Dove left a loaded gun under a table in a statehouse committee room where it was found by a secretary.

Dove said he regularly carried a gun with a leg holster but removed it because his ankle had become swollen.