TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Democrats across the country are calling for gun reform, including lawmakers in Kansas.
Representative JoElla Hoye, D-Lenexa, and a former Moms Demand Action chapter leader, told the Kansas Capitol Bureau that she plans to work over the summer to get the legislation ready for the next session.
“We have got to come together and take action to keep our children and families safe,” Hoye said. “We have people in America who die of preventable gun violence every day.”
Hoye championed a bill this past year that would have required domestic abusers to hand over their guns to law enforcement by court order. The bill got a hearing in a Senate committee this year. She’s working on getting it over the line next session.
The bill would enforce current gun laws in the state that restrict some people who have been convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors or who are subject to domestic violence protection orders from legally acquiring and possessing guns.
LaTonya Boyd, who also volunteers with the Moms Demand Action group in Topeka, recounted the loss of her daughter, Tyesha McNair, in 2009. Boyd’s daughter was a victim of domestic violence, who was shot and killed by the father of her children after leaving the relationship.
Since then, Boyd has made several trips to the state’s Capitol, urging lawmakers to pass gun reform legislation.
“It’s frustrating when I come here, and nothing really gets done,” Boyd said. “They talk about the language of these bills, but what about the lives of these women and children who are suffering while they’re waiting for language to be changed.”
“Our elected officials can end this or at least slow it down,” Boyd continued.
OUTLAWING “GHOST GUNS”
One Democratic lawmaker also introduced a bill to outlaw ghost guns in the state following a school shooting at Olathe East High School in March. Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park, who introduced the bill, said she has “horrifying” memories from the day as she waited to get word that her son was okay.
According to the Johnson County District Attorney, the shooter used a “ghost gun,” an untraceable firearm that the user usually assembles. There was no movement on the bill this legislative session.
Shortly after the bill was introduced, Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, who chairs the state’s Senate Federal and State Affairs committee, said he’s not sure if he’d support the measure.
“The perpetrator violated a few laws to do what he did,” Olson said. “Another restriction’s not going to stop him. I mean, it was posted on the front door of the school not to carry firearms into the school, and he did it anyways.”
NRA GUN SAFETY TRAINING ADVANCES
Two weeks after the Olathe East High School shooting, the state’s Senate Federal and State Affairs committee approved a bill that would allow gun safety training in schools. Senate Bill 522, would require the State Board of Education to establish guidelines for a standardized firearm safety education program, which includes accident prevention.
For students in kindergarten and grades one through five, the curriculum would be based on the “Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program” offered by the National Rifle Association. Grades six through eight would also have that program option or a hunting program offered to high school students through the Department of Wildlife and Parks.
The bill didn’t make it to the floor this session but has been nixed in the past. Sen. Olson said he’s hoping it will help teach kids safety measures, especially at a young age.
“It’s a good bill. It teaches younger individuals gun safety and what to do if there’s a gun there, go tell someone, go tell an adult,” Olson said.
Some Democrats and opponents have argued that the bill’s language should clarify that instructors can’t bring guns into the classroom.
‘GUN REFORM’: UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS, CONCEALED CARRY AGE, ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN
While some legislation has stalled, Kansas lawmakers have passed laws lowering the concealed carry age in the state to 18. Gun control activists have criticized the move, arguing that the age is too young to be in possession of firearms.
On Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden called for gun reform, which includes calling on Congress to ban assault weapons or increase the age to buy one from 18 to 21.
“If we can’t ban assault weapons, then we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21,” Biden said.
Biden’s speech is in response to recent mass shootings in the U.S. This week, five people died, including the shooter, after a mass shooting at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This was just one week after a shooting at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers were killed. In May, 10 people were killed during a racist attack at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
Democrats in Kansas are also reacting to the latest shootings with action. Echoing Biden’s push at the national level, Rep. Hoye said she plans to also look at background checks for all gun buyers, including unlicensed dealers. Hoye, a gun owner herself, said it’s time to implement “common sense” measures.
In Kansas, background checks are required for licensed dealers. However, no law requires background checks for unlicensed dealers, like sales at gun shows and online.
“These private sales can happen without a background check,” Hoye said. “I think that should be a very common sense measure to protect our kids, and our families, and our communities.”
Kansas Capitol Bureau also reached out to Republican leadership on Friday about upcoming plans for legislation next session but did not hear back.