Topeka Two gun-related bills are now on their way to the full Kansas Senate, but with changes from the previously passed House versions that could spark a wide-ranging debate over gun issues.
The biggest controversy centers on House Bill 2145, a bill that expands the list of people who are prohibited under state law from owning or possessing firearms.
That includes people convicted of domestic violence, undocumented aliens, fugitives from justice and people under restraining orders to prevent them from stalking or harassing someone else.
That bill is intended to mirror federal law, making it easier for Kansas prosecutors to charge people with violations in state court instead of federal court.
For that reason, supporters of the bill, including advocates for victims of domestic violence, wanted it to pass cleanly, with no substantive amendments, which is what happened in the House when it passed there, 122-0, on Feb. 2.
In the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, however, Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, added an amendment that he said was intended specifically to address an issue concerning his nephew, who was expelled from a public school for one year after bringing an item to school that administrators said closely resembled a throwing star, a weapon that is currently illegal under Kansas law for anyone even to possess.
Masterson said his nephew, who likes to work with metal, had fashioned a Batman emblem out of a piece of metal about 8 inches wide and brought it to school.
"Under current statute, they classify that as a throwing star, even though that's not what it was, and they expelled him from school for a year," Masterson said.
His amendment, which deals with the same Kansas statute dealing with criminal use of weapons, would move throwing stars into another category of weapons that are only illegal to possess "with intent to use the same unlawfully against another."
Sen. Lynn Rogers, D-Wichita, objected to the amendment, mainly because it violated a tacit agreement between gun rights advocates and those who support more limits on firearms to pass the bill cleanly.
"It is very important that we pass it clean and keep it that way so we can move it forward and send it to the governor as soon as possible," he said. "Our domestic violence victims really deserve that."
But the amendment passed on an unrecorded voice vote.
Following that vote, Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, pushed through an amendment that would permit the use of silencers on firearms, if the gun is wholly manufactured in Kansas.
And Rogers offered an amendment, which he later withdrew, to ban the use of "bump stock" devices that enable a semi-automatic rifle to operate like a fully automatic weapon.
Sen. Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills, who was sitting in the audience during the meeting, said after the vote that she now plans to offer an amendment of her own when the bill reaches the full Senate: language from Senate Bill 431 that would enact a so-called "red flag" law that would enable courts to confiscate guns from people with mental health conditions that make them a danger to themselves and others.
The second gun-related bill the committee advanced Monday was House Bill 2042, a so-called "reciprocity" bill that would allow people who have concealed carry permits issued by other states to legally carry concealed firearms in Kansas.
Kansas currently does not require people to have permits or undergo gun safety training to carry concealed firearms, although people can take a training course and apply for a permit voluntarily.
Other states, however, do require permits, and they will only recognize permits from other states if the issuing state has a reciprocity law recognizing their permits.
Supporters of the bill argue it will enable Kansas residents to legally carry their firearms when traveling to other states with permit requirements.
That bill also passed the House on Feb. 2, by a vote of 76-44. But the House added some amendments to that bill, including one to lower the age for someone to obtain a concealed carry permit to 18 instead of 21, and prohibiting college and university administrators from barring anyone with a permit from carrying a concealed firearm on campus.
The Senate committee stripped out all of the House amendments, including the lower age limit, returning the bill to its original form before advancing it to the full Senate.
Republican leaders in the Senate have not yet said when they plan to bring the bills before the full chamber.