By John Celock
WASHINGTON – A Republican lawmaker in Kansas said that her involvement in a new national gun violence prevention group is not an attempt to stop guns but rather to create a new “dialogue” around “common sense gun legislation.”
State Rep. Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills), a leading moderate Republican, was one of 200 state lawmakers from around the country gathered in a suburban Washington hotel last week for the inaugural meeting of the American State Legislators Coalition for the Prevention of Gun Violence. She said the group is not looking to wage a war on the Second Amendment, but rather create a dialogue, which she says is important to the discussion of guns. Bollier is looking to use her membership in the group to take up the cause of gun violence prevention in Kansas.”
“I believe you can have guns along with common sense gun legislation to protect innocent people,” Bollier told The Celock Report during an interview last week at a restaurant in Washington’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood. “I believe in the right to own a gun.”
Bollier was approached to join the group by legislative colleagues in other states whom she has worked with on legislation. The group was founded by New York State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan).
Bollier stressed the bipartisan nature of the group, but also called it “nonpartisan” and said she wants to be a part of a dialogue.
“It is a very important part of this group that this is not an anti-gun group at all,” she said. “This is a place to dialogue about sensible gun legislation. Guns are part of our culture in the United States and let’s do the best job we can with the guns we have.”
Bollier said that state legislators need to take up the gun violence issue noting that state governments can have a direct impact. In a reversal of traditional Second Amendment arguments that preserving gun access is a states’ rights issue, Bollier said that it covers the entire issue.
“Right now in Kansas we are very much in the mode of states’ rights and because we have increased access to and where you have a gun, we need to be paying attention to the prevention of gun violence, so both parts can be presented,” she said.
Bollier was referencing legislation that expanded the amount of places, including public buildings where a person with a concealed carry license can bring a gun in Kansas.
Bollier, a retired physician, noted that one of her biggest pushes in the 2015 legislative session will be to have gun violence declared a public health concern in the state. She said that watching the opposition to U.S. Surgeon General-designate Vivek Murthy over the same statement galvanized her to want to work on the issue in Kansas. She said that with more people being injured or killed by gun violence, she believes it qualifies as a public health issue.
“As the only physician in the Kansas Legislature for the next two years it matters to me that we focus on appropriate gun control measures and this is one of them,” Bollier said.
Bollier also wants to expand background checks in the state, along with working with Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis), another member of the national group, on legislation to protect victims of domestic violence from guns.
Bollier characterized the push as one that will make Kansas a more attractive place to live.
“If we want people moving to Kansas we have to make sure it’s a safe place to live,” she said.
Second Amendment advocates in Kansas say they do not see Bollier’s new push going anywhere in the GOP-dominated Legislature next year. Kansas State Rifle Association President Patricia Stoneking told The Celock Report that she does not see Bollier’s legislation making it out of committee, noting that Bollier’s calls for increased background checks will not stop gun related crimes. She said the background check is being pushed by gun control advocates including the Brady Campaign and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg but do not include that most legal gun sales are covered by background checks, with the exception of private transactions.
“It won’t do anything to stop crime. That is not what they do not understand,” Stoneking said. “There is absolutely nothing that will stop a criminal. There is no law that will stop a criminal. They are criminals because they don’t abide by the law.”
Stoneking noted that under the background check proposal being pushed nationally, those engaging in private sales would need to go to a gun store and spend more money to have a check performed.
State Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady (R-Palco) echoed Stoneking, noting that increased background checks would hurt families, noting that if a grandfather wanted to leave his guns to a relative in his will, a new law could prevent that transaction.
Couture-Lovelady also questioned Bollier’s characterization of gun violence as a public health crisis. He said that gun control laws in urban areas have not helped decrease gun violence.
“Look at Chicago and Washington, D.C. those are high rates of violent crime, gun crimes and they have some of the strictest gun control laws in the country.” Couture-Lovelady told The Celock Report. “That’s the public health crisis, the rate of violent gun crimes in those cities, the murder rate, armed robbery despite their attempts to ban it, all they’ve done is banned the ability for citizens to protect themselves and their homes.”
Stoneking told The Celock Report that the focus should be on mental health issues, a cause that gun rights’ activists have pushed since the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn. in 2012. She said that those with mental illnesses need to be treated so they do not commit violent crimes. Stoneking noted that guns are not the only deadly weapons, noting a recent story she heard of a hammer related death. She also noted that drunk driving deaths have not caused anyone to target cars.
“That is a person who is deranged. It doesn’t take a gun to do that,” Stoneking said of the hammer death. “If there are no guns on this planet people would still find a way to harm other people. That goes back to the beginning of time.”
Bollier stressed that she is not opposed to guns noting that she grew up hunting and has taken hunter safety courses and has received certifications. While she does not own a gun, she noted that she still enjoys going hunting.
Couture-Lovelady disagreed with Bollier saying that the issue goes beyond hunting.
“The Second Amendment is not about hunting it’s about liberty,” he said.
Bollier said that part of the reason for her involvement in the national group was conversations she had while campaigning for reelection this year in her suburban Johnson County district.
“One of the other reasons I got involved I in this is I heard about it going door to door,” she said. “It’s at the forefront of people’s concern level. Since we have guns everywhere we need to look at ways to avoid gun violence that we don’t want. That is sensible. It is a place we can all talk. I believe in the right to bear arms.”