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Kansas Bills Could Ease Gun Carrying, Confiscation; Release Cop Cams And Pay The Wrongfully Jailed

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Kansas News Service
Legislators look poised to take marginal action on Kansas gun laws this year.

Younger people could carry guns even as local authorities gain new powers to take guns away in some situations. Police videos could become more available and people held in prison wrongfully could expect payments from the state.

On all those matters, Kansas lawmakers have advanced legislation. Those bills still need final approval from the legislature — and the governor’s signature or a veto override — to become law. But they could soon be on the books.

For instance, lawmakers approved a bill making it a state crime for people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence or facing a restraining order to possess a gun. The legislation also says fugitives and people in the country illegally are barred from possessing firearms.

Federal law already bars those people from gun possession. But federal authorities often don’t bother with many cases. By bringing Kansas law in line with federal law, the change would allow local police and sheriff’s departments to enforce the prohibitions.

Democratic House Leader Jim Ward said the bill would allow local prosecutors to pursue charges in state court.

The Senate had amended the legislation to legalize carrying throwing stars if there’s no intent to use them against another person. The bill also would legalize firearm silencers if they’re produced and used only within the state of Kansas.

“In my perfect world, those two things would not be part of this bill,” Ward said, “but they weren’t so egregious to stop us from doing the really good stuff that was in the bill.”

Other legislation that would allow police to confiscate guns from people seen as an imminent threat to themselves or others — geared for cases of domestic abuse or suicidal behavior — looks to be going nowhere. The lawmakers sponsoring the legislation have threatened to tack that law change onto other bills, but the ideas are more likely to molder than flourish this year.

Another bill in a conference committee would require the state to recognize all concealed carry permits issued by other states. It was amended in the House to lower the age to obtain a concealed weapons permit from 21 to 18.

In Kansas, most people age 21 or older are allowed to carry a concealed gun without a permit.

The bill also was further amended to allow universities to bar people from carrying weapons on college campuses unless they possess a concealed weapons permit. Currently, colleges and universities can’t restrict the carrying of guns in buildings unless those buildings have security measures in place to exclude all guns.

But that lower age restriction and campus rules caused some heartburn for senators. They removed the provisions as the bill moved through the Senate.

The two chambers compromised in a conference committee by removing the concealed weapons permit requirement to carry on college campuses and keeping the age change for concealed weapons permits.

Republican Rep. Ron Highland, one of the negotiators on the conference committee, said many members of the House believe 18-year-old Kansans deserve the ability to carry a concealed weapon if they go through the permitting process.

“Eighteen-year-olds work and are able to serve in the military,” Highland said in a meeting to negotiate the compromise. “We think that they should be allowed to concealed carry with training.”

Jo Ella Hoye, with the Kansas chapter of the group Mom’s Demand Action, raised concerns about allowing more guns on university campuses.

“Kansas forces public universities to allow firearms on their campuses,” she said on Twitter. “Lowering the age to concealed carry from 18 to 21 makes it possible for the majority of the student body to carry hidden, loaded guns.”

In another policy area, lawmakers continue to work onlegislation that would create a system to compensate people wrongly convicted of crimes and imprisoned.

People wrongly convicted of crimes in Kansas get nothing, but they can pursue lawsuits to seek damages.

The House plan would provide people $80,000 for each year they were wrongly imprisoned.

The Senate bill offers less money, $50,000 per year, but adds additional services such as health care coverage and college tuition.

Republican Rep. Blaine Finch, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said House members are interested in the Senate’s changes.

“They like the idea of being able to offer more than just dollars in order to help people … move forward with productive lives,” Finch said.

He said a conference committee will need to make some compromises, but he believes they will reach an agreement on the issue.

Finch also said the conference committee will advance a plan to allow some people access to videos from sources such as police body cameras.

The bill gives people in the videos or their family members access to police recordings within 20 days. In the past, it could take months for family members to find out what happened in a fatal police shooting.

The Senate amended the bill to specify that the request must be made in accordance with the state’s open records law.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

As the Kansas News Service managing editor, I help our statewide team of reporters find the important issues and breaking news that impact people statewide. We refine our daily stories to illustrate the issues and events that affect the health, well-being and economic stability of the people of Kansas. Email me at skoranda@kcur.org.
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