The National Rifle Association endorsed Kansas legislation Thursday to prohibit landlords from crafting rental agreements banning use, possession or ownership of a firearm by tenants of government-subsidized apartments.
Travis Couture-Lovelady, state director of the NRA and a former Kansas House member, said the House bill would limit civil liability of a landlord who complied with the proposed law to instances of "willful, reckless or gross negligence" for injury or death arising from an occurrence involving a firearm the landlord would be required to allow on the property.
In addition, House Bill 2378 would grant landlords authority to set restrictions for handling pistols, rifles and other firearms in common areas of the property.
"A person's financial situation should not be a hindrance to their free exercise of their constitutional rights," Couture-Lovelady said.
Several House members were curious whether the bill was written to allow possession of firearms to apartments of Section 8 subsidized housing or whether the law would extend to tenants of apartments in the complex not subsidized by government. Legislative staff working with the House Federal and State Affairs Committee said the rental-agreement restriction would apply only to those in a subsidized unit.
"Probably make it harder for Section 8 tenants to find housing," said Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, D-Prairie Village.
Megan Jones, who lives in the district of Stilwell Rep. Sean Tarwater, said the NRA's advocacy for the bill was peculiar because it amounted to infringement on a property owner's right to determine how best to use private property. The legislation should be opposed because it would force property owners to abide by government-imposed choices reflecting ideological choices of a Kansas special interest, she said.
"If we tell landowners what they can and cannot allow in their property, are we different than King George, forcing American colonists to quarter his troops and their arms?" Jones said. "Are we different from those who would force each one of us to keep a copy of a Little Red Book?"
Jason Watkins, who lobbies for the Kansas State Rifle Association, the state's NRA affiliate, said the legislation was inspired by a Maine resident who lived in a subsidized apartment that was burglarized multiple times. The retiree purchased a gun for personal protection and shot an intruder. The man's landlord informed him he would have to dispose of the gun or be evicted, Watkins said.
He said it was unacceptable that anyone in the United States would have to choose between self-protection through ownership of a firearm and removal from public housing.