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Kansas to Join States Allowing Concealed Guns Without Permit

Kansas is poised to join a handful of other states that allow their residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit after the Legislature gave final approval Wednesday to a bill backed by the National Rifle Association.

The measure was headed to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback despite some lawmakers' misgivings about the state dropping its requirement that anyone seeking to carry a concealed firearm undergo at least eight hours of training. Brownback's office didn't say what his plans are, but he's signed every other major gun-rights measure sent to him since taking office in January 2011.

Kansas would become the fifth state to allow concealed carry without a permit everywhere within its borders, according to the NRA.

"Carrying a gun is a lifestyle," said Republican Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady. "The government should trust its citizens."

The House approved the bill Wednesday on an 85-39 vote. The Senate passed it last month, but a House committee made a technical change that senators had to review. The Senate signed off, 31-8, about two hours after the House's vote.

The House also approved, 100-24, a bill prohibiting cities and counties from imposing special fees and taxes on guns or gun sales. It would follow up on a law last year aimed at nullifying local restrictions and goes to the Senate.

All states allow some form of concealed carry, but the NRA says only Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming allow it everywhere in the state without a permit, though Montana allows it without a permit outside of cities, which is most of the state. In West Virginia, lawmakers passed a bill, but Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed it.

The Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature has strong gun-rights majorities in both chambers, and Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce was the bill's leading sponsor. The NRA joined the Kansas State Rifle Association in pushing for it, while the state chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence sought to block it.

Kansas enacted its concealed carry law in 2006 and about 87,000 people 21 and older hold valid permits. A person seeking a permit must pay $132.50 in fees besides undergoing the eight hours of firearms training.

State law has long allowed people to carry firearms openly without requiring training, and backers of the bill said gun owners have shown they are responsible with their firearms.

"Kansans already have two documents granting them the right to concealed carry — the Constitution of the United States and the Kansas Constitution," Couture-Lovelady said. "That should be all they need."

Even if the bill is enacted, the state would continue to issue permits so that its residents could carry concealed in other states recognizing the Kansas permit.

But even some gun-rights supporters said they were nervous about no longer requiring training for everyone who wants to carry concealed. House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs, a Kansas City Democrat, said that in continually lessening restrictions in Kansas lawmakers are "getting caught up in extremism."

And Rep. John Wilson, a Lawrence Democrat, said: "I have concerns with the type of culture that we're creating, when guns are in more places, particularly among children."

By John Hanna, Associated Press

Oregon Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Expand Gun Background Checks

Oregon lawmakers have introduced a highly anticipated bill this session that would require background checks for private gun sales, closing a loophole that backers say has made it easy for convicted felons and others prohibited from having guns to get them.

Oregon currently requires background checks for purchases from a licensed dealer or at a gun show.

SB 941, dubbed the "Oregon Firearms Safety Act'' and introduced Thursday by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, would expand background check requirements to gun transfers between private individuals, whether through the Internet or personal contact.

It would, however, specifically exempt background checks for the transfers of firearms by or to a law enforcement agency, private security, members of the U.S. military, between spouses, domestic partners or other immediate relatives, or the transfer of guns resulting from the death of a firearms owner or involving a gun turn-in or buy-back program.

The bill also would require judges to rule whether people undergoing court-mandated outpatient treatment for mental disorders should be prohibited from obtaining firearms during their treatment.

It would prohibit people from buying or possessing a firearm while under outpatient treatment if there's a court finding a "reasonable likelihood the person would constitute a danger to him or herself or others, or to the community as a result of their mental or psychological state." Such a court order would be entered into the state law enforcement data system, known as LEDS.

Oregon now prohibits people from possessing or buying a gun if they have a felony conviction, are found "guilty except for insanity'' of a felony, were civilly committed to the Oregon Health Authority for a mental illness or found to be mentally ill and subject to a court-ordered gun ban because of the illness.

The bill also would require state police to report to the local sheriff's office or police chief an attempted gun sale if they find the intended buyer, through a background check, isn't supposed to have a gun.

If a gun sale is done without the required background check, the person making the sale can be prosecuted. The offense would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison, a $6,250 fine or both, or up to a 10-year maximum sentence and $250,000 fine for a second or subsequent violation.

"It shouldn't be so easy for criminals to get guns. This bill would help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people by ensuring that all Oregonians undergo the same background check when buying a gun,'' said Jenna Yuille, whose mother Cindy was killed in the 2012 Clackamas Town Center shooting.

Six other states have adopted universal background checks -- the last being a ballot measure passed by Washington voters in November -- though similar bills failed to pass the Oregon Legislature in 2013 and 2014.

Oregon Democrats, who received major campaign contributions from the national gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety last year, think they now have a big enough majority to pass the bill.

Kevin Starrett of the Oregon Firearms Federation, sent a message to other gun-rights advocates Thursday morning, urging them to make their concerns heard right away.

"We have been reliably informed that this bill is going to be fast tracked through the Senate,'' read a message sent by the Oregon Firearms Federation. "Please, right now, contact your representatives and express your outrage at this new and dangerous assault on your privacy and liberty.''

The federation's release called the current background system a "joke," and said this new bill's purpose "is simply to harass legitimate gun owners and expand the universe of registered guns and gun owners."

Last week, Starrett told The Oregonian/OregonLive about the anticipated effort to expand background checks on guns: "The more complex you make it, the more impossible it's going to be to have something you can enforce.''

Starrett argued that Oregon's background check system is already riddled with errors that prevent or delay legitimate buyers from getting a gun.

Everytown for Gun Safety released this analysis Thursday, saying FBI data and media reports show that more than half of Oregon police shot to death in a 30-year span were killed by people who had been barred from possessing guns.

Everytown for Gun Safety and the Oregon chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Safety in America applauded the proposed legislation.

Anneliese Davis, a volunteer with the Oregon chapter of Moms Demand Action, called SB 941 a "first step toward keeping our kids, schools, communities -- and the law enforcement officers who work to protect us -- safer.''

"Background checks are proven to prevent gun violence - and as Oregon moms, we urge the Legislature to pass this bill as swiftly as possible,'' Davis said in a prepared statement.

The expanded checks "would do nothing to impede the average law-abiding citizen from buying and owning guns. It should be about as much as of a no-brainer as you could ever imagine," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He also urged voters to contact legislators "and hold them accountable to put the safety of Oregon citizens ahead of the interests of the corporate gun lobby."

Everytown for Gun Safety's "Oregon Officers Down'' study also found that two-thirds of Oregon law enforcement officers intentionally killed on duty between 1980 and 2014 were killed with guns.

Retired Portland Police Chief Mike Reese said the state needs to address the "dangerous loophole in the law'' that allows criminals to get guns online or through a private sale from a stranger, "no questions asked.''

"Where they've changed the law, fewer police officers are shot and killed in the line of duty,'' Reese said.

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian

Texas Bill Would Prohibit Doctors From Asking About Guns

While legislation expanding how and where Texans can carry weapons is dominating the Legislature this week, one state lawmaker is targeting the doctor’s office as a place to keep the federal government from learning who owns guns.

Over the objections of the medical community, state Rep. Stuart Spitzer, R-Kaufman, has filed a bill that would prohibit doctors from asking patients whether they own a firearm and makes the Texas Medical Board, which licenses physicians, responsible for doling out punishment.

“Pediatricians are asking children away from their parents, ‘Do you have guns in your house?’ and then reporting this on the electronic health records, and then the federal government, frankly, has access to who has guns and who doesn’t,” Spitzer said in a recent interview. He said he experienced the phenomenon firsthand when he took his daughter to the doctor, who asked her whether there were any guns in the house.

Spitzer, a surgeon, said he wanted to make sure that doctors “have the right not to ask that.”

But doctors’ groups say House Bill 2823 would squelch important discussions that are part of the physician-patient relationship.

“We, as physicians, ask all sorts of questions — about bike helmets and seat belts and swimming pool hazards, dangerous chemicals in the home, sexual behaviors, domestic violence. I could go on and on,” said Gary Floyd, a Fort Worth pediatrician and board member of the Texas Medical Association.

“All of that’s geared mainly to how we should direct our advice,” he said. “As a pediatric [emergency room] doc, one of the worst things you have to do is sit down with the family and explain that the child has died, or may never be the same, because of an unintended gunshot wound.”

Spitzer said his bill would still allow psychiatrists, who are more likely to encounter suicidal patients, to ask about gun ownership. But for most physicians, he said, asking about gun ownership is “not appropriate.” He suggested they could instead ask more “open-ended” questions about a person’s means to harm himself.

Florida passed a similar law in 2011. Challengers, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, challenged the law in court arguing that it infringed on doctors’ free-speech rights. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta last year upheld the law as constitutional.

“The Act simply informs physicians that inquiring about a private matter irrelevant to medical care isn’t part of the practice of good medicine and that, as always, a physician may face discipline for not practicing good medicine,” Judge Gerald Tjoflat wrote in the majority opinion.

Spitzer’s bill was referred Monday to the House Public Health Committee.

By Edgar Walters, Texas Tribune