Rachel Whitten | KansasReporter.org

TOPEKA—A refined definition of the right to bear arms in Kansas, and a measure taking away the legislature’s ability to keep the mentally ill from voting will be up for Kansans to decide on Nov. 2.

The two proposed Kansas constitutional amendments are the first since 2005, when voters approved a legal definition of marriage.

Constitutional amendment question number one clarifies an individual’s right to bear arms.

In the current Kansas law, when it states “the people have the right to bear arms for their defense and security,” the “people” is defined as people as a group, referring to a militia according to Kansas Supreme Court case from 1905. The new definition redefines the law to mean individuals, not a collected group. The proposed amendment says “a person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and state, for lawful hunting and recreational use, and for any other lawful purpose.”

“It’s just making certain we have an individual, not a collective right to gun ownership in Kansas,” said state Sen. Tim Huelskamp, a Republican from Fowler, who spearheaded the measure in the Senate during the 2009 session, along with state Sen. Mike Peterson, a Republican from Wichita.
Constitutional amendment question number two deals with an old, never used provision of the Kansas Constitution that gives the state legislature the ability to vote to keep mentally ill people from voting. 

“The legislature has never enacted anything that would deprive people with a mental illness of voting,” said state Sen. Tim Owens, a Republican from Overland Park. “It’s in the Constitution that they can, but they haven’t ever done it. People are just concerned ‘what if they did?’ It’s a preemptory kind of a thing.”

The issue arose during the 2010 session, starting in the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Owens is the chair. Advocates for the mentally ill and mentally disabled brought the law’s provision to the attention of the committee and spoke out against the legislature’s ability to keep mentally ill people from voting.

“There were a number of people in the [mental health] industry … who had come and said that was really inappropriate,” Owens said. “There are a lot of people who have had diagnoses of mental illness who are perfectly fine on medication and they shouldn’t be deprived of their right.”

Although Owens said he hopes voters approve the measure, he said not much will change if they don’t.

“It’s one of those things where if it passes that’s great, if it doesn’t pass, you look at the historical perspective and see the legislature has never done anything with it anyway,” Owens said.

The amendments appear on Page 7B of today’s Herald-Chronicle, exactly as they will on the Nov. 2 ballot.

In addition to the two amendment questions, Osage County voters will see the following races on their ballots:

• United States Senate – (D) Lisa Johnston, (R) Jerry Moran, (L) Michael Dann, (Ref.) Joseph K. Bellis.

• United States House of Representatives – (D) Cheryl Hudspeth, (R) Lynn Jenkins, (L) Robert Garrard.

• Governor/Lieutenant Governor – (D) Tom Holland/Kelly Kultala, (R) Sam Brownback/Jeff Colyer, (L) Andrew Gray/Stacey Davis, (Ref.) Ken Cannon/Daniel Faubion.

• Secretary of State – (D) Chris Biggs, (R) Kris Kobach, (L) Phillip Horatio Lucas, (Ref.) Derek Langseth.

• Attorney General – (D) Steve Six, (R) Derek Schmidt, (L) Dennis Hawver.

• State Treasurer – (D) Dennis McKinney, (R) Ron Estes.

• Commissioner of Insurance – (R) Sandy Praeger.

• Kansas House of Representatives, 59th District – (D) Blossom Barth, (R) William Prescott.

• Supreme Court Justice – Carol Beier, Dan Biles, Lawton Nuss, Marla Luckert.

• Court of Appeals Judge – Stephen Hill, Patrick McAnany, Nancy Caplinger, Henry Green Jr., Tom Malone, Michael Buser, Melissa Taylor Standridge.

• District Court Judge – Phillip Fromme.

Voters in some areas of Osage County will see the following races:

• State Board of Educations, 9th District – (D) Robert Medford, (R) Jana Shaver.

• Kansas Senate, 17th District – (D) Jerry Karr, (R) Jeff Longbine.

• County Commissioner – (R) Carl Meyer.

The names of township clerk candidates will appear on ballots in their respective areas.