Kansas Democrats have filed two gun control bills for the upcoming legislative session. With some key lawmakers signaling resistance, the proposals could be a tough sell.
Still, legislators from both parties expect discussion of the state’s role in regulating firearms.
Rep. Vic Miller, a Topeka Democrat, wants to ban bump stocks -- rifle add-ons that make a semi-automatic weapon work much like a fully automatic gun -- following the Las Vegas massacre in October that left almost 60 people dead at a music festival. In that shooting, multiple semi-automatic weapons had been modified with bump stocks.
“It’s in direct response to the incident out in Las Vegas,” Miller said. “Before that, I’d never heard the term ‘bump stock.’”
Miller said bump stocks effectively circumvent federal laws that place tight restrictions on automatic weapons that can reel off several rounds of ammunition with a single pull of the trigger.
“The only purpose these devices serve is so madmen can kill more people quicker,” Miller said.
Another Democrat, Lawrence Rep. Boog Highberger, has introduced legislation to make it a crime to abandon a firearm in public. He said the bill is in response to a gun found in a bathroom on the University of Kansas Campus.
Last year, a state lawmaker also left a handgun in a committee room during a meeting.
Republican House Majority Leader Don Hineman, from Dighton, expects there will be firearm debates. He believes the fact that it’s an election year may prompt more talk of social issues and gun laws.
“We do need to look at the issues that are raised by both of those gun bills,” Hineman said.
However, Hineman doesn’t see an easy path for any firearms legislation. If the bills come up, more issues could be piled on, such as barring guns from college campuses. That would complicate the debate.
“That’s the problem with any legislative proposal,” Hineman said. “It can morph into something more than the author intended.”
Some lawmakers have criticized the state law that allowed concealed weapons on college campuses last year, but efforts to amend the policy have failed in recent years.
Lawmakers modified state law last year, allowing public hospitals to continue banning concealed weapons. Hineman said after that heavy lifting, there might not be much appetite among lawmakers to consider gun bills this year.
“They’ll come up in committee. I’m not sure they’ll survive the committee process,” Hineman said.
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda.