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Firearms under fire

We would like to think rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens by the Constitution could be taken for granted. They can't be, of course. Whether real or imagined, somebody or something always happens that prompts lawmakers to take action.

Take our Second Amendment right to bear arms. Last year, amidst the hysteria the federal government someday would attempt to keep a list of all gunowners, try to force background checks at gunshows or with online sales, or even confiscate all the weapons, legislators in Topeka went to work.

With Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, leading the way, the Legislature passed the Second Amendment Protection Act. Knox said it was needed to protect the "constitutional guaranteed individual liberties" of law-abiding citizens.

The majority of lawmakers apparently decided there were a lot of liberties requiring protection. Among other things, the act allowed concealed-carry permit-holders the right to take their weapons inside most government buildings -- unless the governmental body went to the incredible expense of ensuring nobody possibly could bring any weapons inside. The adequate measures included metal detectors and trained personnel guarding each entrance open to the public. If the city or county wasn't willing to commit the dollars necessary, they'd simply have to allow concealed-carry weapons in their buildings.

The law also stated the federal government had no authority to regulate guns and ammunition made, sold and kept in Kansas. And then it banned federal agents from attempting to enforce any law covering those items.

Most likely, courts will find Kansas telling the United States how to conduct its business unconstitutional. Still, it's the current law here in the Sunflower State.

But legislators are not only worried about federal overreach. They're worried about local overreach, as well.

Currently being heard in Topeka is House Bill 2473, which prohibits cities and counties from enacting or enforcing any ordinance "governing the purchase, transfer, ownership, storage, carrying or transporting of firearms or ammunition."

How that reconciles with the options granted cities and counties just last year of deciding for themselves if they wanted concealed-carry weapons on their premises, we're not sure.

HB 2473 goes even further. It would ban local governments from attempting to find out if any of their employees had concealed-carry permits. This would include law enforcement agencies.

The bill would prevent cities and counties from imposing any more restrictions on firearms sales than are placed on "any other commercial good." For example, if a person isn't forced to show identification or pass a background check to purchase a pack of gum, then such actions could not be imposed on somebody purchasing a handgun.

And, of course, knives get the same types of protections as guns.

In short, the Kansas Legislature is saying nobody has any jurisdiction other than themselves when it comes to Second Amendment rights. Neither the feds nor local governments can do anything Topeka does not allow. Our state lawmakers fancy themselves the ultimate authority on all things weapons related.

But are they really that smart? It is difficult to say. Bogging down discussion last week was the possibility of an intoxicated individual not being able to shoot somebody if they felt threatened.

Fortunately, lawmakers are receiving sage counsel from the Kansas State Rifle Association.

Patricia Stoneking, president of the KSRA, offered: "You know, if I have two glasses of wine with my dinner, I'm fully capable of still defending myself."

She was assured by a state attorney this would be allowed.

We'll wait and see what the governor ultimately signs into law. We remain unconvinced state lawmakers are doing any real work in this arena other than pandering to the gun lobby. Such legislation could fail, and Kansans still would have the Bill of Rights guaranteeing them the right to bear arms.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net