Conceal carry veto shot down
Topeka "Lock and load," joked Rep. Paul Davis, a Democrat from Lawrence.
Qualified Kansans will be able to carry concealed guns as early as January under a bill put into law last week despite Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' veto.
The quick draw by the Legislature took only moments and came with no debate as the Senate overrode Sebelius 30-10 on Wednesday, March 22, and the House piled on 91-33 Thursday, March 23. Both votes surpassed the two-thirds majorities needed to overcome a veto.
"In some ways it's anticlimactic after 14 years of work," said Senate sponsor Phil Journey, R-Haysville.
Leaning against a rail outside the House chamber, Journey, wearing a National Rifle Association pin and gun-shaped tie clasp, said: "I'm elated at the same time. I think it's good public policy. Kansans are going to be safer."
Opponents of the bill, including Davis, disagreed.
"I don't think putting more guns in the hands of people in public places is going to lead to greater public safety," he said.
The override ended years of political wrangling. Gov. Bill Graves vetoed concealed carry in 1997, and Sebelius in 2004.
This time, however, the veto didn't stick.
Journey said he thought that was because concealed carry had a track record of working in nearly every other state in the nation. Only Illinois, Nebraska and Wisconsin won't allow residents to carry hidden guns.
Under the bill, Kansas residents 21 or older with no criminal background or history of mental illness or drug abuse would be able to obtain a four-year permit after completing an eight-hour training course.
The law takes effect July 1, but it will take several months to ramp up the administrative process to grant permits. The first permits are expected to be issued in January 2007. Those receiving permits must pay a $150 fee.
Sebelius vetoed the measure March 21, saying it would endanger the public and law enforcement.
Rep. Candy Ruff, D-Leavenworth, the House sponsor, said Sebelius was wrong.
"It doesn't make Kansas any less safe now. That's kind of an insult to law-abiding Kansans," said Ruff, whose district includes areas in Lansing east of Main Street.
After the House vote, Ruff said she had three telephone calls to make: the first to her husband and the others to two constituents who were raped and wanted to be able to carry a gun.
Ruff said the law gives Kansans a choice.
"If somebody feels a need or is compelled for their own individual reasons to carry a concealed firearm, now they can do so, if they are law-abiding citizens," she said.
She said she doubted it would have an effect one way or the other on the crime rate.
But Journey said it would.
"Many criminals are rational human beings, and when they realize there is a good chance that they could get shot committing a violent crime, they'll probably decide to do something else," he said.
One aspect of the law that didn't get much notice is that it will pre-empt hundreds of local ordinances regulating guns, but Journey said it wouldn't be difficult to comply.
Lansing addresses firearms regulation through the Kansas Uniform Public Offense Code, which is used throughout Kansas, said Lt. Ben Ontiveros of the Lansing Police Department.