TOPEKA — Legislation under consideration by the Kansas Senate would make firearms the first industry protected from discrimination under state law.
Senate Bill 482 prohibits state and local government entities from contracting with companies that refuse to trade, engage or have terminated an existing relationship with firearm companies. Firearm industry advocates argued instances of this type of discrimination have risen substantially in the past decade.
Supporters of the Firearm Industry Nondiscrimination Act called these business decisions a direct attack on the Second Amendment.
However, Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said in a hearing Monday these business decisions pale in comparison to some of the other forms of discrimination around the state. He pointed to several women’s health clinics in Wichita having difficulties finding service from plumbers, contractors and suppliers.
“There’s about 150,000 LGBT Kansans. There are 1,310 licensed gun dealers in the state of Kansas,” Witt said. “If you are going to protect 1,310 licensed gun dealers in the state of Kansas, let’s amend this bill. Let’s include sexual orientation and gender identity and we will become active supporters.”
Under the bill in the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, all government agencies at the state and local level would be subject to antidiscrimination provisions, with few exceptions. For example, a company would not be discriminating against a firearm entity if it has an established company policy of not engaging in the business of firearms.
If the company must engage in discriminatory acts to comply with federal, state or local laws or if the company has a “traditional business rationale,” it may refuse to engage in trade with a firearm entity.
The final exception is for government entities who need to contract with the sole provider of the good or service.
Jason Watkins, with the Kansas State Rifle Association, pointed to Yeti, a cup and cooler company, who a few years back ceased partnering with the firearm industry.
“What we’ve seen recently is corporations taking action to discriminate against those that make firearms, those that make ammunition and even those associations that represent the people that want to use firearms to protect their families or for sport shooting or for hunting,” Watkins said.
Lawmakers in Texas, Wyoming and Georgia have approved similar legislation.
Proponents of the bill also said PayPal has taken a stance against the firearm industry. They did not provide examples of any specific companies the Kansas government is contracting with that violate this proposed law.
The Attorney General’s office said the enactment of this bill would result in legal challenges.
However, Sen. Kellie Warren, a Leawood Republican and bill co-sponsor who is seeking the GOP nomination for attorney general in this year’s election, said this was a message the Legislature needed to send in support of the Second Amendment.
“It’s something that I believe Kansas needs to get ahead of because it’s a right that Kansans do cherish and hold dearly,” Warren said. “Kansas has to make clear again, through their Legislature, that they support the Second Amendment and that they do not want to undermine the Second Amendment in any way.”
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