TOPEKA, KS (KCTV/AP) - Kansas will strip cities and counties of their power to regulate guns and nullify local gun regulations in July, ensuring that it will be legal across the state to openly carry firearms.
That adds to a string of victories in recent years by the Kansas State Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates.
Gov. Sam Brownback announced Wednesday that he signed a bill preventing local officials from restricting the sale of firearms and ammunition or regulating how guns are transported and stored beginning July 1. The National Rifle Association has described the legislation as a model for states seeking to strip local officials of gun regulating powers.
Brownback signed the measure without fanfare late Tuesday. The Republican governor last year signed a measure declaring that the federal government has no authority to regulate firearms manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas and making it a felony for a federal employee to attempt to enforce federal regulations on such items.
"Kansans have long believed the right to bear arms is a constitutional right," Brownback said in a statement.
Kansas law doesn't expressly forbid the open carrying of firearms, and the attorney general's office has in the past told local officials that some restrictions are allowed. The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, KS, has prohibited the practice, but the bill would sweep any such ban away, except to allow cities and counties to prevent openly carried weapons inside public buildings.
In cities like Leawood and Prairie Village, there are currently tougher gun laws than the state.
Supporters of the bill contend that a patchwork of local regulations has infringed upon gun ownership rights guaranteed by the Kansas Constitution and the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"Last year the city of Lenexa on their own, the City Council, just on their own rescinded their open carry ban, just on their own. And since then it hasn't turned into the wild, wild west and there hasn't been a single incident of gun violence by anyone open carrying," said Grant Nelson, with the Johnson County Open Carry group who pushed for the legislation.
But critics of the bill have argued that local officials know their communities best and should be allowed to regulate firearms.
"I'm speechless. What we've gone through in this country, just recently, it just astounds me that we cannot get this thing under control," said Barbara Rodts, of Prairie Village.
One place open carry would be allowed is city parks, which is not a problem for a woman named Liza who frequents Leawood's parks and trails.
"It's kind of scary going through the park anyway, so I was actually thinking - I wasn't sure if I could have a gun or not - but I was thinking of possibly having a holster because, if someone was trying to hurt me, what would I do?" she said.
Both the National Rifle Association and the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence say 43 states, including Kansas, already limit the ability of cities and counties to regulate firearms, though they vary widely in how far they go. The center says California and Nebraska have narrow pre-emption laws that leave substantial power to local officials, and five states - Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York - don't expressly pre-empt local regulation.
Mike Kerner, the president of the Johnson County Open Carry Group, said on July 1, when the law takes effect, his group plans on having a picnic in the park with guns holstered to celebrate.
Even with the change in law, businesses can still set their own policy on allowing guns.
The CEO of Starbucks drew national attention when he asked customers to stop bringing their guns to its stores, but Starbucks does not actually ban weapons. Other companies that do prohibit guns in their businesses include Chuck E. Cheese's, Ikea, which is building a store in Merriam, KS, AMC Theaters and Toys "R" Us.