Kansas Right to Keep and Bear Arms Amendment:

The Kansas House and Senate have just put on the November 2010 ballot a proposed Kansas right to bear arms constitutional amendment that would read,

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.

The current text, "The people have the right to bear arms for their defense and security," has been read as not securing an individual right in City of Salina v. Blaksley, 83 P. 619 (Kan. 1905), which was adhered to by City of Junction City v. Lee, 532 P.2d 1292 (Kan. 1975). This strikes me as an especially inapt conclusion for a state bill of rights provision, since the right is obviously protected against the state — how then can it belong to some state-defined collective, such as a militia or some such? But that's what the Kansas Supreme Court said. (City of Junction City v. Mevis, 601 P.2d 1145, 1151 (Kan. 1979), struck down a gun control law, challenged by an individual citizen, on the grounds that the law was “unconstitutionally overbroad”; this might involve an implicit conclusion that the right does indeed belong to individual citizens, but the decision didn't rest on the right to bear arms provision, and didn't purport to overrule Blaksley and Lee.) Now it looks like the voters will probably change that.

The votes were 39-1 in the Senate and 116-9 in the House. I would expect a vote comparable to the 74%-26% on the last such state right to bear arms amendment, in Wisconsin in 1998. The text of the amendment, by the way, closely follows a modern trend, as exemplified by New Mexico (1971), Nevada (1982), North Dakota (1984), Utah (1984, slightly different), West Virginia (1986), Delaware (1987), Nebraska (1988), and Wisconsin (1998).

As I discuss in my state constitutional right to bear arms article, an individual right to bear arms to self-defense is expressly secured (either by the text or by court interpretation of the text) by the constitutions of 40 states. The matter is not resolved in two states, Hawaii and Virginia. The provisions in two states, Kansas (not for long now) Kansas and Massachusetts, have been interpreted as securing only a collective right, whatever that might mean under a state constitution. And six state constitutions, those of California, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York, don't mention a right to bear arms. I'm a bit surprised that Iowa and Minnesota gun rights supporters haven't gotten similar provisions put on the ballots in those states, since I take it that they'd surely pass there. But I assume the explanation is that people in those states just aren't that worried about state and local governments enacting gun controls, and aren't that interested in sending a message to people or institutions outside their own state.

Thanks to KSC Blog for the pointer.

UPDATE: Added a link to a copy of City of Salina; thanks to Clayton Cramer for putting it up.