Gun rights activists in Kansas have successfully legalized concealed guns without a license for the past 20 years, blocked efforts to pass “red flag” laws to allow law enforcement to take firearms away from persons in crisis, and this spring they have most fees for concealed weapons abolished licenses.
Their latest effort is to pass official proclamations to raise awareness of gun violence.
The Kansas State Rifle Association, the state affiliate of the NRA, last week sent letters to officials in Roeland Park and Parsons, in the state’s southwest, objecting to proclamations marking June as Gun Violence Awareness Month and June 2 as Gun Violence Awareness Month. Violence Awareness Day. Both commemorations are nationally recognized.
The proclamations are non-binding messages of support and solidarity for victims of gun violence. They say that “support for the rights of law-abiding individuals under the Second Amendment goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns away from people with dangerous histories” and encourage residents to support local efforts to prevent gun violence.
But the KSRA describes the statements as part of an effort by the “radical gun control lobby” to enlist local governments in an effort to limit gun rights. The letters singled out national organization Moms Demand Action and other groups advocating for additional firearms restrictions and safety measures for criticism.
“Should Roeland Park or any other local government unit choose to go beyond allowing national gun control groups to use government resources to promote their extreme agenda and, in addition, take action to protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners to defend themselves against violent reduce crime? “You can rest assured that the Kansas State Rifle Association is not standing idly by,” KSRA executive director Moriah Day wrote in a letter.
“Rest assured; we will defend the rights of potential victims to defend themselves with every fiber of our being.
The pushback effort, targeting places, underscores how completely gun rights activists in Kansas have succeeded in relaxing the state’s gun laws over the past two decades. Even measured expressions of concern about the toll of gun violence are enough to provoke a sharp rebuke.
Roeland Park Mayor Michael Poppa, who signed his city’s proclamation, said the purpose of the document was to recognize that gun violence exists.
“It recognizes that responsible, law-abiding gun owners have the right to have their guns under the Second Amendment,” said Poppa, who is also the executive director of the Kansas Mainstream Coalition.
“But it also recognizes that we don’t — we don’t have any security protocols to ensure guns don’t get into the hands of people with dangerous histories. So it was very clear.”
Poppa also said he interpreted Day’s comments about how the gun association would react if Roeland Park took additional action as a threat. Kansas lawmakers have already largely taken away the power of municipalities to enact firearms regulations more restrictive than state law.
Even one Republican top seemed less alarmed by the proclamations than the KSRA.
“Personally, I don’t care what the locals do with that,” Kansas State Senate President Ty Masterson, a Republican from Andover, said Thursday. “I don’t even know what to say to it.”
Similar proclamations and notices have also been issued by Prairie Village, Leawood, De Soto, Junction City, Lenexa and Mission, according to a Facebook post from Moms Demand Action. The Shawnee Mission School District also released a proclamation.
The KSRA has only flagged Roeland Park and Parsons’ proclamations on its website.
“No Kansan should be comfortable with the fact that these local governments go to great lengths to place the blame for violence on inanimate objects, responsible gun owners and other law-abiding Kansanen instead of devoting all their time and resources to in actual combat. crime and stopping the violent criminals who are the real problem,” the KSRA said on its website.
Day did not respond to a call on Thursday.
Gun Violence Awareness Day is associated with Wear Orange, a national campaign honoring Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old who was shot and killed in a Chicago playground in 2013, shortly after participating in President Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade.
“Wear Orange is an annual activation to honor lives cut short by gun violence, such as my son, Felix who was shot and killed, and is honored each year at this event,” said Mary Snipes, senior fellow at the Everytown Survivor Network and a volunteer with the Kansas chapter of Moms Demand Action. Felix was shot in Junction City in 2018.
“Gun violence affects everyone and responsible gun owners recognize the importance and value of raising awareness about this issue. Striking down admissions of the true impact of the gun violence epidemic on people is a really low act,” Snipes said in a statement. “As gun violence tears families apart across the country, survivors of tragedy have a right to be heard and we have a responsibility to listen and act on lifesaving solutions.”
The upcoming Awareness Day and Month falls against a national backdrop of regular mass shootings. Uvalde, Texas, on Wednesday marked the first anniversary of an elementary school shooting in which a former student shot and killed 19 students and two teachers. Last weekend, a shooting at a Kansas City nightclub left three dead and two injured.
Yet mass shootings represent only a fraction of gun violence. Just over 500 people died from firearms in Kansas in 2021, a death rate of 17.3 per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gun deaths in Kansas have risen in recent years. In 2014, 329 people died.
State Representative Jo Ella Hoye of Kansas, a Lenexa Democrat and former leader of the Moms Demand chapter for Kansas, suggested that the lack of official action on gun safety is only drawing more attention to gun violence.
“Because more and more people in this country know someone who’s been affected by gun violence … they’re experiencing it, so the movement is growing, unfortunately, because we’re not taking action,” Hoye said.
“So I think it’s possible they’re just scraping straws and grabbing to make something out of this.”
Kansas lawmakers have been incrementally reducing limits for decades, going back to their vote to allow concealed guns in 2006.
Lawmakers voted in 2015 to allow those 21 and older to carry concealed weapons without a permit. In 2021, the legislature lowered the age for concealment of guns to 18 due to the veto power of the Democratic administration Laura Kelly, although persons aged 18-20 are still required to obtain a permit.
At the same time, GOP lawmakers have blocked “red flag” laws that would give courts more power to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others.
Most recently, the legislature passed a bill a few weeks ago eliminating $116 in fees for individuals who choose to be licensed. Cutting the fees was signed by Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, a Republican, and Kelly signed the bill into law.
“We had this proclamation on our agenda for at least the last four years,” Poppa said. “And this is the first year there’s been a response from the NRA, from the Kansas State Rifle Association.”
Katie Bernard of The Star contributed to the reporting