TOPEKA - Kansas authorities would arrest and prosecute any federal authorities trying to regulate or confiscate firearms manufactured and owned in Kansas under a bill discussed by a House panel Tuesday.
Gun-ownership advocates pleaded with members of the Republican-dominated House Federal and State Affairs Committee to approve the bill to protect Kansans from what they see as potentially unconstitutional laws being discussed in Washington.
House Bill 2199 declares that firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition manufactured and owned in Kansas can't be subject to any potential federal laws.
Those trying to regulate Kansas firearms from outside Kansas would be arrested and charged with a felony.
The bill also prevents doctors from asking patients if they have a gun, except for physicians treating someone for a diagnosed mental illness.
About 50 lawmakers, including several Democrats, are sponsoring the bill, assuring its passage out of the committee for a vote in the House, where it is also likely to pass.
At least 15 other states are considering similar actions aimed at preempting federal gun-control laws, such as those that seek to prevent the proliferation of high-capacity magazines.
President Obama has outlined a plan with four major legislative proposals and 23 executive orders to improve enforcement of existing laws and create stricter background checks.
But Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, said she fears Obama's efforts will go far beyond that and possibly lead to the confiscation of common hunting rifles, including AR-15s, .30-30s and shotguns.
"It's a slippery slope," she said.
Stoneking said the proposed law will open Kansas to new business and jobs in gun manufacturing.
"Making firearms isn't rocket science," she said. "It's been done for a very long time."
Rep. John Rubin, a Republican from Shawnee who took the lead in writing the bill, told a room packed with gun-rights advocates that the bill puts "real teeth" into protecting individual liberties and shows the Second and 10th Amendments are "alive and well in the state of Kansas."
Secretary of State Kris Kobach said there's a good chance the law would be challenged in court and could go to the Supreme Court.
Gun regulations often rely on firearms moving across state lines, giving the federal government authority to regulate, Kobach said. But the state has rights to regulate things made and owned in Kansas, he said.
"Could this potentially result in a legal fight? Yes," he said. "But it is a fight worth having."
The law wouldn't apply to guns that require more than one person to carry and use, weapons that fire projectile explosives or automatic guns that fire multiple bullets with one trigger squeeze.
Lawmakers questioned various ways that the federal government could infringe on gun ownership.
Rep. Ken Corbet, R-Topeka, asked whether President Obama could create new taxes on guns that make owning a weapon prohibitively expensive.
Rubin said he feels there are few things the Obama Administration is unwilling to do. "If they can't get laws passed by Congress, they do try the executive order route," he said.
Derby Republican Rep. Jim Howell said he has concerns about telling a doctor about gun ownership and whether that information would go into a database. He said he's worried that mental health information will become public if doctors note gun ownership.
"If you make that connection, it's a significant disincentive (to get treatment)," he said. "Once that information goes out into society that this person has a mental illness, it will follow that person for the rest of their life."
Kobach noted that a patient can refuse to answer a doctor's question, but he said the state could require healthcare providers to include a note on medical forms that reminds people that they don't have to answer questions about gun ownership.
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