As your legislator, part of my job is to develop innovative policy solutions to deal with what constituents tell me are the most important issues they would like to see addressed. With that in mind, and in consultation with various firearms policy experts, here is an 11-point plan to address the topic of guns, and the epidemic of gun violence, while protecting citizens’ right to keep and bear arms…
11-Point Gun Safety Legislation Plan
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
– Second Amendment of the Constitution
“Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
– Justice Antonin Scalia in District of Columbia v. Heller Supreme Court Opinion
When it comes to firearms I have a very unique perspective. My dad grew up on a farm in Barton County and I make frequent trips out there to visit relatives. Like most of rural Kansas, my family shoots guns and I will sometimes join them. I’m actually a pretty good shot, while my little brother can’t hit the broad side of a barn.
So I understand the arguments of rural residents that guns are part of rural lifestyles. But at the same time, it is simply unacceptable that Kansas kids should be afraid to go to school because they fear mass shootings. We must find solutions for gun violence. Frankly, Kansas has done a terrible job at addressing gun violence and there are a multitude of things we can, and should, address.
- Consistently and accurately submit criminal and mental health records to the FBI for use in the background check system. The day I visited the secretary of state’s office to sign up to run–immediately after I finished signing the paperwork, in fact–I headed to the capitol and began working on this. It’s scary to think about, but unlike most states, Kansas is not consistently submitting our criminal and mental health records to the FBI’s background check system. That means that Kansans convicted of serious crimes or domestic abuse can easily pass background checks and obtain weapons. There is a federal program called NARIP that will essentially pay the administrative costs associated with submitting these records, but as I told legislators that day, Kansas must do some initial legwork in order to obtain this funding. There is a bipartisan group of legislators that are currently undertaking this effort, but this is a long process that should be among our highest priorities. Ultimately, it will cost the state almost nothing while greatly improving the state’s ability to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
- Require background checks for all firearms purchases and transfers in Kansas. Currently, only about half of the firearms sales in the state of Kansas are required to even use a background check. A background check is not currently required for private sales between individuals. Any Kansan selling a gun should have an interest in ensuring that the purchaser is not a criminal. Background checks are the only reliable way to make sure this is the case.
- Repeal The Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act of 2013 or allow for exemptions. This act forced public institutions and universities to allow concealed firearms on their campuses without regard for the feelings of public officials or local law enforcement. This places The University of Kansas, Johnson County Community College and other public facilities at great risk. We need to allow public officials from those institutions the ability to assess their own security needs and plan accordingly.
- Require permits and training for firearm possession. The Kansas system of allowing concealed firearms without a permit must end. If you intend to carry a firearm in public you must have a permit and extensive training to match. An untrained individual with a gun in public is a danger to himself and everyone around him.
- Prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors or are subject to domestic violence protective orders from possessing firearms or ammunition. While federal law prohibits these, Kansas law does not. This creates some confusion as local law enforcement are placed in charge of enforcing federal law.
- Require courts to notify domestic abusers when they become prohibited from possessing firearms and require the surrender of firearms or ammunition by domestic abusers who have become prohibited from possessing firearms. Kansas courts currently do not notify domestic abusers of their loss of Second Amendment Rights and do not require them to surrender firearms.
- Kansas courts, state government and local governments must work with law enforcement to develop procedures to remove firearms from violent individuals who have become prohibited from owning firearms. In many instances this will require coordination between the Kansas court system, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement to find individuals and investigate whether they are unlawfully in possession of a firearm.
- Ban the sale of bump stocks or similar attachments. Many states have banned the sale of bump stocks or similar attachments that make a semi-automatic rifle simulate fully automatic fire. We need to follow suit.
- Ban the sale of silencers/suppressors and extended magazines. Silencers and extended magazines have no purpose other than for combat and they should not be allowed in civilian hands.
- Make it illegal to leave a firearm in a place where it could reasonably be accessed by a child by instituting a “Child Access Prevention” law. The practice of keeping firearms locked and unloaded serve as protective measures–they reduce youth suicide and unintentional injury in homes. Most responsible gun owners already do this, but Kansas must require to properly protect our children.
- Require the use of “body cameras” on uniformed law enforcement. Minorities in our country have been struggling with police brutality for generations. We must ensure transparency with our law enforcement and body cameras are a step in the right direction. Gun violence, when committed by law enforcement is still gun violence.
Rural Kansans must understand that urban and suburban Kansans are not out to take away their guns. None of these measures would take guns out of the hands of law-abiding Kansans. Not one.
By the same token, Kansans across the state are fed up. Real problems associated with gun violence deserve real, practical solutions. Enough is enough. It’s time to get to work on solving the problem of gun violence.