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Kansas House panel delays vote on gun measure

Published on -2/7/2014, 1:37 PM

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas legislators want to ensure that carrying firearms while drunk or under the influence of drugs is illegal, so a committee has delayed a planned vote on a gun-rights bill partly to give members more time to hash out the language of such a ban.

The House Federal and State Committee had planned to vote Friday on the measure, which strips cities and counties of any power to regulate guns. But members instead spent more than an hour reviewing changes suggested by the bill's leading sponsor, Rep. Jim Howell, a Derby Republican, and postponed the vote until Tuesday.

Howell's changes included a new, broad declaration that it's a misdemeanor to carry firearms under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. Federal law bans illegal drug users from owning guns, and a Kansas law authorizing people with state permits to carry concealed weapons forbids the permit-holders to do so under the influence. However, it's not clear that Kansas law has a broader prohibition.

"If someone is out hunting, for example, and they're drunk, that would be a violation," Howell told the committee, describing how the law would change. "I believe someone who's under the influence of drugs or alcohol shouldn't be operating a firearm. This is a very good principle."

But committee members quickly became tangled up in the details. For example, Rep. Erin Davis, an Olathe Republican, said the language should be expanded to cover impairment by legal prescriptions that, when taken as directed, can make people "a little bit loopy."

And Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, sought assurances that the language wouldn't hinder self-defense rights if, for example, someone who's had drinks with dinner is accosted by an attacker in a parking lot.

"You know, if I have two glasses of wine with my dinner, I'm fully capable of still defending myself," Stoneking.

Jason Long, an attorney on the Legislature's bill-drafting staff, told her that people who are impaired still could take temporary possession of firearms to protect themselves, and Stoneking's concerns were assuaged.

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Online:

Information about the gun-rights measure: http://bit.ly/1hSjBtC

Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at www.twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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