Gun rights and mental health advocates are leaving nothing to chance this fall as they push for passage of two amendments to the Kansas Constitution.

Gun rights and mental health advocates are leaving nothing to chance this fall as they push for passage of two amendments to the Kansas Constitution.

One issue establishes that Kansans have an individual right to own a gun. The second removes language granting legislators the authority to deny voting rights to the mentally ill, though no laws currently exist.

On first blush, it would seem their concerns are unfounded, given that legislators had little trouble over the past two years in securing a spot for the measures on the Nov. 2 ballot. But the advocates say they don’t want voters to overlook either matter when they step forward to select from a slate of candidates for statewide and congressional offices.

“I personally consider this a no-brainer,” said Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association.

“Nobody seems to have a problem with this.”

The guns issue can be traced to a 1905 Kansas Supreme Court ruling in the case of City of Salina v. Blakesly, where the justices upheld that a man convicted of possessing a firearm did not have the individual right to own a gun. The court ruled that “the people’s right” to bear arms was a collective right. Only standing militias were entitled to have firearms and only to be used in defense of the state.

The second question concerns voting rights and removes what Sheli Sweeney of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas considers “archaic.”

It would change Section 2 of Article 5 to remove language granting the Legislature the authority to deny voting rights to the mentally ill, along with convicted felons and individuals in prison. Kansans changed the section of the law in the 1970s when the constitution was last updated on a grand scale, but left the mental health exception.

Sweeney said had the changes been made later in the decade the mental health exception also would have been nixed. Mental illness was just beginning to be understood, leading to changes in treatment and diagnosis that otherwise would have led to a “hospital sentence” for residents.