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Gun rights backers want state to resist feds' push

By JOHN HANNA

Associated Press

TOPEKA -- Gun rights advocates are pushing Kansas state lawmakers to counter potential moves by the federal government to restrict access to firearms.

Dozens of people packed one of the Statehouse's largest meeting rooms Tuesday to show their support for gun rights as the House Federal and State Affairs Committee heard testimony in favor of a measure declaring the federal government has no power to regulate firearms, ammunition or gun accessories manufactured and sold only in Kansas.

The same bill would make it a felony for an agent of the federal government to attempt to enforce a federal law, regulation or treaty restricting access to firearms, ammunition or accessories manufactured, sold and kept within Kansas. Also, the measure would limit the circumstances in which doctors could quiz their patients on whether they have guns in their homes.

The bill is among several measures lawmakers are considering amid discussions in Washington about how to lessen gun violence in the wake of December's mass fatal shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. The Kansas hearing came only a day after the Colorado House approved new gun-control measures for that state.

Gun rights advocates in Kansas said they're most concerned about proposals for a federal ban on some military and law enforcement-style weapons, an idea President Barack Obama supports.

They said such a ban is likely to cover weapons owned by millions of Americans and could lead to attempts to confiscate them, despite protections for gun rights under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"Anyone that knows history should understand that a centralized power that wants to have complete control of the people always comes after the guns," said Robert Wood, a Pittsburg resident who provides gun safety training and is a regional leader of the tea party-aligned Kansas Sovereignty Coalition. "We're once again at the crossroads of liberty in this nation."

The House committee also is reviewing a bill to allow people with state concealed carry permits to bring their weapons into more public buildings and another measure to prevent cities and counties from placing restrictions on people who are allowed by law to carry a firearm. A concealed carry bill also is before the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee.

Gun rights advocates have high hopes for such proposals after the election last year of a class of new conservative Republicans to the GOP-dominated Legislature. Also, in the state's November 2010 election, 88 percent of voters approved an amendment to the Kansas Constitution clarifying its guarantee of people's right to bear arms "for their defense and security" protects individuals' gun ownership.

The proposed "Second Amendment Protection Act" heard Tuesday by the House committee has drawn little opposition so far, and 12 of the panel's 23 members are among its 49 sponsors. The advocacy group Kansas Action for Children opposes the provision limiting the circumstances in which doctors can collect information about patients' gun ownership, arguing it would prevent them from providing safety advice.

Backers of the bill include Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a former University of Missouri-Kansas City constitutional law professor. He helped draft the measure and said it's written carefully enough the state wouldn't be stepping on the federal government's power under the U.S. constitution to regulate interstate commerce. He acknowledged the law, if enacted, could face a court challenge.

"But it is a fight worth having," Kobach said.

Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, questioned whether Kansas would have wanted to join the Union in 1861 if residents had thought gun rights might come under attack. She said the bill is merely "taking back the rights" enjoyed by Kansans.

"But may I suggest that if they actually come to confiscate guns, it'll be a lot more than (a) court battle," Stoneking told reporters after the hearing. "The citizens of this state are not going to give up their guns."