January 30, 2006

This Should Be Fun . . .

Yet again, Kansas' hardy annual emerges, this time in the guise of SB 418, the "Personal And Family Protection Act". Attentive (okay, really anal-retentive) readers will know that Kansas is one of five states currently without any provision whatsoever for the concealed carry of firearms for nonsworn citizens and that nearly every legislative session during the last decade or so has seen a "shall-issue" measure passed by the legislature, only to be vetoed by the sitting governor. And I suppose "hardy annual" is a little misleading; it didn't germinate in 2005, owing principally to a realization that the makeup of the legislature would once again preclude an override of the almost-certain governor's veto, as well as the fact that the the state House and Senate were tied up with school-finance issues throughout the legislative session.

The "Personal And Family Protection Act" v5.0 differs very little from that passed in 2004 as revised in conference committee, and which, of course, was vetoed by then- (and still-) Gov. Sebelius (D-Ohio), which veto the House failed to override by 4 votes. A quick word about those revisions:

The Senate version of the bill replaced Kansas Bureau of Investigation oversight of the permitting process by shifting that responsibility to the office of the state's Attorney General, which was in my opinion a vast improvement. In Kansas, the A.G. is an elective, rather than an appointive or bureaucractic, position, which therefore renders the office at least somewhat more responsive to the electorate.

Some personal observations:

Publicola and I will probably differ to some degree on whether this is a good or bad thing. His stance, as I'm sure regular readers will realize, is that any time a right is circumscribed with requirements which one must meet before a "permit" can be issued by the State, it's no longer a right, but rather a privilege subject to government fiat and the petty tyrannies of whichever bureaucratic drone one is unlucky enough to have to deal with. I don't think there's much of a hole in that particular argument and in principle I don't disagree with him.

State politics don't generally operate from a basis of logic, however, and that's the reality with which I must deal as a Kansas resident. There'd need to be an enormous change in political perception in my home state before Vermont-type carry will be a practical possibility; perhaps passage and adoption of the "Personal And Family Protection Act" would provide a necessary first step toward reclaiming our freedom in Kansas. I'll grant belief in that possibility runs counter to the lessons of history here with respect to recent performances by past legislatures and governors.

The Act naturally contains some limiting clauses, most particularly with respect to places where concealed carry would be prohibited. Among those places are virtually all state and local government buildings, non-shooting-related athletic event venues, the state fairgrounds, many drinking establishments (more on this presently), and perhaps most troublingly, nearly all school buildings throughout the state -- some private institutions, provided the owners thereof agreed, might be exempted. The complete text of the bill can be seen here (.pdf format, unfortunately):

"2006 Kansas Personal And Family Protection Act"

The portion pertaining to businesses which serve alcohol on their premises is somewhat interesting. Such establishments can apply for an exemption from the prohibition if they can provide proof that at least 30% of their gross sales derive from food sales; they therefore technically are reclassified as "restaurants", which would be, at the business owner's discretion, exempt from the ban. The 30% figure is currently subject to scrutiny by the state's Alcohol Beverage Control commission for reasons having to do with our somewhat arcane requirements for licensure to serve liquor by the drink; I can easily foresee a bureaucratic turf battle erupting over the issue.

As mentioned earlier, v4.0 of this provision was vetoed by Gov. Sebelius under the pretext that (and I paraphrase here), "It would be confusing and difficult for our law enforcement officers and agencies to enforce and would put police officers in more danger." While portions of that argument were and are technically true, they are, put charitably, intellectually dishonest. The governor was at that time citing the opinions of bureaucratic and executive law enforcement agency heads and peace officer union shop stewards. The opinions of rank-and-file cops on the ground were neither solicited nor desired; the governor was simply making a party-line position statement. What rendered her rationale particularly specious is that the bill was introduced in the 2004 session by Rep. Candy Ruff, not only a member of the governor's own party, but the wife of a Leavenworth police officer. One assumes that Rep. Ruff and her husband had at least some discussion over the issue before she proposed the legislation.

All this discussion will probably be academic in any case. The governor hasn't yet declared her candidacy for the 2006 gubernatorial race (she will, and relatively soon). She hasn't yet been very clear on her ambitions for national office either (she has them; it's only a matter of time). I suspect that the state's Republican leadership is simply giving her the opportunity to bare her ass once again as the partisan party hack she really is. Failing an epiphany of proportions equal to St. Paul's, she'll veto this measure yet again, and for equally ridiculous reasons.

Unfortunately, the bill faces a preliminary hurdle this year that it didn't in 2004. Back then, it was introduced in the House, which had a carry-friendly committee chairman helping to move it to the floor for consideration. This time around, the bill will come from the Senate side, where it will be read into the Federal And State Affairs committee for referral. That committee's chairman, although a Republican, is not as favorable to the issue. In short, the balance of the committee may have to force his hand before the bill will receive consideration, much less a referral to the floor.

I'm relatively certain that once the bill reaches the floor in both houses, it will pass with comfortable margins. Unfortunately, once again, they probably won't be veto-proof majorities, at least not in the House. And the governor will almost certainly veto it again. This year, it seems that a little extra firepower (sorry!) will be brought to bear, though; NRA-ILA has for the first time taken an interest in Kansas carry law and is sending out targeted emails urging support for the bill from its membership. I rather doubt that any nationwide organization will be spending any serious money on the proposition, however.

A state with only 2.5 million residents and with a political landscape as described above probably won't warrant much of an investment in what those organizations' executive directors more than likely see as a losing cause. In fact, it wouldn't much surprise me if the governor used, at least as part of her rationale for vetoing the measure this year, that "outside interests" were at work attempting to undermine the political will of the people of Kansas (did I mention that she's from Ohio?), notwithstanding the fact that if the measure reaches her desk, it will have been approved by at least 70% of the collective membership of the legislature.

It looks yet again as though we Kansans will have to get serious about electing a governor who has more respect for individual rights than we've managed to do over the last 12 years. It's a collective responsibility; we'll see how this goes first. The governor's behavior with respect to this issue may yet provide the impetus necessary to install conservative leadership more respecting of individual rights in the governor's mansion.


Posted by Iceberg at January 30, 2006 12:28 PM | TrackBack

Yep. We Kansans definitely need a "Sack Sebelius" campaign.

Posted by: tkdkerry at January 30, 2006 09:37 PM
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