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Kansas legislators reject numerous gun-control measures

March 16, 2018 GMT
Members of the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which supports gun-control measures, watch from a gallery as the Kansas Senate prepares to debate gun issues, Thursday, March 15, 2017, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. The Senate has rejected a proposal to make it illegal to use bump stocks to make a semi-automatic rifle mimic an automatic one (AP Photo/Mitchell Willetts)
Members of the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which supports gun-control measures, watch from a gallery as the Kansas Senate prepares to debate gun issues, Thursday, March 15, 2017, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. The Senate has rejected a proposal to make it illegal to use bump stocks to make a semi-automatic rifle mimic an automatic one (AP Photo/Mitchell Willetts)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators rejected more than half a dozen proposed gun-control measures Thursday, including a ban on using bump stocks and a waiting period for buying guns.

Two relatively narrow bills served as the backdrop for a debate in the state Senate, and both passed without amendments. One, approved 40-0, is designed to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. The other , which passed 25-15, makes other states’ licenses to carry concealed guns valid in Kansas. The House passed both earlier this year but must consider changes made by senators.

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It was the Republican-controlled Legislature’s first major debate on gun issues since a school shooting last month in Florida that left 17 people dead. Sen. Ty Masterson, a conservative Andover Republican, said all lawmakers agree that such incidents are true tragedies but suggested that gun-control advocates equated the mere presence of guns with “active bodily harm.”

“It’s an irrational, unfounded fear,” Masterson said.

Democrats were behind the majority of proposed amendments to the bills. Democratic Sen. Tom Hawk of Manhattan said it is up to the Legislature to shield children from gun violence, which he said is a goal that the amendments would have helped achieve.

“The adults in this country allowed this situation to develop,” Hawk said. “If we don’t get this right it will be our eternal shame.”

But one after the other, the amendments failed during the four-hour debate.

Legislators narrowly rejected a proposal Thursday from Democratic Sen. Lynn Rogers of Wichita to make it illegal for gun owners to use bump stocks to make semi-automatic rifles mimic fully automatic ones.

Rogers offered the bump-stock proposal as an amendment to the bill that would clarify rules for allowing people who have permits to carry concealed weapons in other states to carry concealed while in Kansas.

He argued that banning the use of bump stocks would reduce deaths from gun violence. His amendment would not have made mere possession of a bump stock illegal.

But Masterson said the ban would be ineffective. He said gun owners can use a belt loop to increase a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire so that it mimics a fully automatic one. The Senate was evenly split at 20-20.

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Sen. Barbara Bollier, a moderate Mission Hills Republican, proposed a second amendment to the concealed carry bill that would allow someone to go to court to get guns removed from a family member’s home if they believe the family member is a danger to himself or others. But it was ruled out of order because the subject strayed too far from the underlying bill.

Democratic Sen. Pat Pettey of Kansas City proposed a three-day waiting period as a way to prevent suicides and gun violence. But Republican Sen. Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth suggested it would prevent abuse victims from protecting themselves.

Rogers said it is encouraging that the votes against gun-control measures were closer than they have been in the past, though Thursday is likely to be the only day this year that senators fully debate gun issues.

But Bollier said, “This is a public health crisis, and we continue in Kansas not to address it.”

The bill dealing with domestic abusers would make it a felony under state law for anyone convicted of domestic violence to possess a firearm within five years of conviction. It would also be illegal for fugitives to possess guns. It already is a crime under federal law, but supporters of the bill say federal courts and prosecutors are often too busy to handle such cases.