Mistakes in the text of a legislative amendment caused Kansas lawmakers to vote Wednesday to allow for the open carry of guns in the state Capitol, instead of what they thought was a vote to approve the concealed carry of guns in the statehouse.
Because of poor wording, an amendment to a bill seeking to add the state Capitol to a list of public buildings where the concealed carry of weapons is allowed actually removed the ban on the open carry of guns there.
State Rep. John Wilson (D-Lawrence), the sponsor of the amendment, said that in the rush to have it drafted, an attorney in the Revisor of Statutes office removed the open-carry provision instead of adding the Capitol to the concealed-carry list. Wilson said he was told about the mistake Wednesday evening following the House vote and then informed his colleagues on Thursday, prior the final confirmation of the bill.
"The intent of my amendment was to allow concealed carry in the Capitol, and only the Capitol and only concealed," Wilson told The Huffington Post. "That's what the amendment I drafted did -- or so I thought."
Wilson, who in fact opposes weapons in public buildings, drafted the amendment to draw attention to what he considered the hypocrisy of legislators who wanted to allow the concealed carry of weapons in other public buildings, including schools and mental health centers, but not in their own workplace.
The bill now goes to the state Senate, which would have the option of removing the open carry provision.
State Rep. J.R. Claeys (R-Salina) said that while some Republican lawmakers enjoyed hearing of Wilson's mistake, he believes the Republican-controlled Senate will likely remove the provision. He said Wilson should have done more in advance to prevent the accident.
"I think when people propose amendments they should be more descriptive about what they want to do," Claeys said. "This one had a large loophole in it."
Claeys said that if open carry does go through, he will still support the bill, adding that he does not believe open carry would make the Capitol unsafe. He said seeing people advocate for legislation while carrying a gun would not sway him.
"I think there is something to be said for growing up around people who have weapons," Claeys said. "It is not as foreign to most of us as it is to people who grew up in more urban areas and have far less history with firearms."
Wilson questioned why his Republican colleagues did not offer more debate on the concealed carry of guns in the Capitol in the first place. He noted that the Kansas House devoted "hours" to debate over whether or not concealed carry should be allowed in schools and mental health centers but only minutes to permitting the practice in the Capitol.
"When I brought this up, there was only one question and it was to clarify something," Wilson said. "No one asked about the safety of the front-line security or the safety of our staff. No one asked about the safety of the junior-high pages. That was troubling and frustrating to me. The body was so quick to allow guns in this place."