The Star – Sebelius veto backs city governments over citizens on concealed carry

Posted on Sat, Apr. 14, 2007

Sebelius veto backs cities
Governor rejects the plan, even though legislators adopted it by big margins and could vote to override.
By DAVID KLEPPER
The Star’s Topeka correspondent

TOPEKA | Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Friday vetoed a bill that would have nullified local ordinances on where concealed weapons could legally be carried.

The bill was passed overwhelmingly by the Legislature, and it’s likely there will be an effort to override the veto when lawmakers return to Topeka in two weeks.

In a statement accompanying the veto, Sebelius said she didn’t oppose efforts to keep concealed-handgun rules consistent across the state. But she objected to a deletion made by lawmakers that took out a prohibition against guns at nonschool youth athletic events like soccer league games.

State law already prohibited handguns at school sporting events and professional sporting events, but not sports league events. Gun competitions were exempt from the restrictions.

“If it is in the interest of public safety to not have weapons at school-sponsored sporting events, it makes little sense to then prohibit local officials from banning guns at other sporting events,” Sebelius, a Democrat, said in her statement.

Supporters of the bill said they were disappointed. They argue that people authorized to carry handguns are trained to use them responsibly and that cities don’t need to pass further restrictions.

“I think cities have overreacted from the danger of permit holders,” said Rep. Candy Ruff, a Leavenworth Democrat and a lead sponsor of the bill. “They’re thinking that law-abiding citizens who have gone through the training for a permit are a danger. I think that’s unfair.”

Two-thirds of each legislative chamber must vote to enact a bill into law over a governor’s veto. The House and Senate met that threshold when they initially passed the bill, but it remains to be seen whether some – particularly Democrats – might change their mind in the face of Sebelius’ veto.

When the Legislature enacted a law last year permitting concealed weapons – over a Sebelius veto – it included a list of 22 places where concealed weapons were prohibited, including bars, courtrooms and private properties with posted signs. The list also included city halls, libraries and schools, but not parks or other city properties.

Once the bill was passed, cities began adding their own restrictions. Roeland Park and Mission passed ordinances prohibiting concealed handguns on city property – including city offices and parks. Olathe banned guns at city offices. Leawood restricts concealed weapons in city buildings, greenways and parks.

Those laws would have been nullified under the bill vetoed Friday, HB 2528. Under the bill, cities could prohibit employees from bringing concealed weapons to work, just as any employer can. But lawmakers said they didn’t think cities should be able to tell nonemployees where they could wear concealed handguns and where they couldn’t.

City officials and local law enforcement agencies had lobbied against the bill, arguing that they were in the best position to make decisions affecting the public safety of their residents. They also objected to being told by state lawmakers what laws they could pass.

After Friday’s veto, Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn was cautiously optimistic but she noted the likelihood of an override attempt.

“I’m delighted that she vetoed it,” Dunn said, “but I will have to see what happens next.”

Dunn said it was important for local governments to be able to pass ordinances addressing public safety, including additional restrictions on concealed guns.

“It’s all about local control,” she said. “We are living here. We are close to the public that we’re serving. I believe that we feel we have a better handle on what’s in the best interest of our citizenry.”

The Star’s Laura Bauer and Benita Y. Williams contributed to this report. To reach David Klepper, call 1-(785) 354-1388 or send e-mail to dklepper@kcstar.com.

© 2007 Kansas City Star and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.kansascity.com

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