Universities prepare for guns on campus

By Ashleigh Tidwell

KU Statehouse Wire Service

The day is drawing nearer when students, faculty and staff will be able to carry guns on college and university campuses in Kansas.

In April 2013, Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill that would allow concealed carry permit holders to carry firearms on college campuses. The bill included a four-year exemption that would give time for universities to prepare, meaning guns would officially be allowed on campuses in 2017.

As the date approaches, colleges and universities are putting together task forces and committees to evaluate how the new legislation will affect campus life and what the costs would be to install greater security measures.

“We’re really in our research stage,” said Keegan Nichols, assistant vice president of Student Affairs for Fort Hays State University. “Our student government took on the project and they’ve been looking at study after study to educate themselves on what this legislation will entail.”

The law requires all state run buildings to allow concealed weapons on its premises unless proper security measures are installed. Those security measures would come in the form of metal detectors and security guards stationed at each public entrance, which is likely to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Jack Martin, University of Kansas director of strategic communications for the Office of Public Affairs, said the university is taking instruction from the Board of Regents and conducting an assessment of all buildings and facilities.

“In regards to how security plans and procedures may or may not change, as a general practice Public Safety and the university do not discuss security plans,” Martin wrote in an email.

Capt. Donald Stubbings of the Kansas State University Police said there are several logistical concerns that go in to putting new security measures in place. Administration must evaluate how each building is used, whether for classes, offices or outbuildings, and determine how installing security measures would affect the flow of traffic for students going to and from classes.

“They’re giving universities the four-year exemption to allow time for administration to evaluate the security of their buildings and the costs of installing greater security measures,” Stubbings said.

Beyond the logistics, many university officials are concerned for the safety of their students, faculty and staff.

Chris Hoover, director of University Police and Safety at Emporia State University, is fearful for the safety of both his officers and the students.

“I’ve been with students since 1981 and I know the sort of stress they’re under and the pressures that are put on them,” Hoover said.  “When you add guns to that, nothing good is going to come of it.”

Hoover said that students often make rash decisions and when those decisions involve guns it is likely to turn deadly.

“When you have a gun strapped to your hip, it’s easier for someone who’s in a heated discussion to pull it out in anger and make a bad decision,” Hoover said.  “Honestly, this thought really scares me.”

To date, there has never been a shooting reported on a college campus in Kansas, however, proponents of the legislation often cite school shootings like the one at Virginia Tech in 2007 to justify the bill. Supporters say that if a law-abiding, gun-carrying citizen had been present, lives could have been saved. Hoover, however, sees it differently.

Although he acknowledges that there is a possibility of a Good Samaritan neutralizing a threat, there are other things he wishes people would consider.

“I honestly don’t think the average citizen is psychologically prepared to use deadly force,” Hoover said.  “They go through their eight hours of training (required for a conceal-and-carry license) and think they’re ready to handle the situation. But the reality is, most trained police officers aren’t even prepared to handle that sort of situation and they go through far more extensive training.”

One of Hoover’s main concerns is that the Good Samaritan will be the one perceived as a threat when the officers arrive on scene.

“When we get to a scene we have very limited information about what is going on,” Hoover said. “All we know is that the person with the gun is the bad guy, that’s the first person we go to.”

Hoover’s biggest fear is that the average Joe who was able to stop the shooter, will then be in danger of being harmed by one of the responding officers who believes he or she is the original shooter.

When the bill was proposed in 2012, police chiefs from eight Kansas colleges opposed the bill in a written testimony to the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. Richard Johnson, associate vice chancellor for Public Safety and Chief of University Police for the University of Kansas Medical Center, wrote the testimony in representation of all University Police Chiefs in Kansas.

He expressed concerns similar to those of Hoovers in the testimony.

“In that split second the responding officers have to decide, ‘Is that man in the classroom with a gun in his hand the bad guy or a student with a license to carry a handgun?,’” the testimony reads.

For Hoover, the chances of something good happening are slim to none.

“I know this is a hypothetical situation, but there are so many ways I can see this sort of situation going wrong,” Hoover said. “In the end the negative outweighs the positive with this legislation.”

Ashleigh Tidwell is a University of Kansas senior from Topeka majoring in journalism.

 

 

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New legislation brings hope to families affected by autism

By Ashleigh Tidwell

 

Every morning is a struggle.

It starts with an early alarm at 5:30 a.m., more than two hours before they need to leave.  Jennifer Davis hopes that today will be a good day.  She hopes she will be able to get her five children off to school smoothly.

Unfortunately, it’s not. Davis’ two sons, Sam, 11, and Bo, 5, have been diagnosed with autism, which makes mornings slow and difficult.  She struggles to get them dressed. She begs them to eat their breakfast. When they finally get on the bus, Davis can relax.

The sense of calm doesn’t last long, as Davis soon begins to worry about how her boys will do in school. Because of their special needs, school doesn’t come easy for the boys.

“Last year I cried every single day because Bo hated school,” Davis said. “It was hard to see him so miserable.”

Davis, a stay-at-home mom from Derby, is one of thousands of parents in Kansas who have children with autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is estimated that there are about 8,000 children in Kansas with ASD. In fact, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 68 children in the United States have been identified with ASD.

The CDC defines ASD as a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. This causes people with ASD to communicate, interact, behave and learn in different ways than most.

For Davis these differences in behavior make everyday activities a challenge.

“My daughters play sports and if we’re bringing the boys you never know what will happen,” Davis said. “They could be perfectly behaved, or something could set them off and we’d be in the middle of a tantrum.”

For Davis, all-family outings have become scarce. She said the family hasn’t eaten in a restaurant together for nearly three years. Not only because the boys might not behave well, but also because there are very few things they will eat.

“If we go visit my family in Topeka we have to make sure we bring things the boys will eat,” Davis said. “Otherwise they just refuse to eat at all.”

Unfortunately for Davis, and other parents of ASD kids, the struggles don’t stop with the kids’ behavior. Hefty medical bills come with the diagnosis.

Simply diagnosing ASD can cost thousands of dollars. This might include genetic testing or behavior analysis. After diagnosis, children are often recommended to work with behavioral aids and occupational therapists. None of which was covered by insurance until recently.

On Wednesday, Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill into law that mandates state-funded insurance agencies provide coverage for diagnosis and treatment of autism and autism spectrum disorder.

Jim Leiker, president and CEO of Easter Seals Capper Foundation in Topeka, said health coverage could mean the difference between a child who may never be independent and one who might be able to succeed on his or her own.

“Our belief is early intervention,” Leiker said. “The earlier you start the more likely the child is to learn and develop those skills that don’t come naturally to them. We want to get them the services early because it has the best chance to make a difference.”

For some families, starting these services early is not an option. The CDC estimates that caring for a child with ASD costs $17,000 more per year than caring for a child without it. That puts the total cost of one year of care between $40,000 and $60,000 per child.

For parents like Davis, who have more than one ASD child, the costs can bury them in unmanageable debt.

“By the time Sam was 5 or 6, his medical bills were already in the $500,000 range,” Davis said. “We just don’t have that kind of money to spend out of pocket.”

Davis began noticing differences in her oldest son Sam when he was about 18 months old. After seeing a few doctors they determined he was autistic but there were still tests that needed to be done. The diagnostic testing took years.

“For a few years our life was a living hell,” Davis said. “We had this little boy and we didn’t know what was going on, and we couldn’t afford to figure it out.”

Davis took her son to the University of Nebraska-Omaha to get the testing done. Later, she was told her insurance wouldn’t cover the testing.

“We fought and fought and fought. It was awful,” Davis said. “We finally got them to cover those tests but nothing else.”

Davis has not been able to afford hiring a personal aide for her boys, so she has relied on the school’s behavioral therapists.

“We got really luck with them,” Davis said of the behavioral aides. “The boys have taken well to them and they love school now. But I know some parents aren’t as lucky to have good ABAs in school.”

With the passage of the bill there is hope autistic children will get the treatment and therapy they need to aid in their development.

“We feel like this has given us some sort of hope,” Davis said.

The law will require state-funded insurance companies to cover up to 25 hours per week of prescribed applied behavior analysts. This also includes speech and occupational therapy.

According to Leiker, this is expected to benefit more than 750 children in the next two to three years.

However, the law stops when the child turns 12.

Leiker, who has been advocating for insurance coverage for nearly seven years is thrilled about the legislation, but still believes there is work to be done.

“It’s a big day for people with autism and their families,” Leiker said. “It’s a step in the right direction but we’re not done working. Autism doesn’t stop at age 12 so we can’t stop fighting.”

For now though, Leiker is hopeful that the new law will help bring treatments to some children.

“We want to help more people get the services they need, and that’s exciting for us,” Leiker said. “Hopefully we can continue our work and get more services to even more people.”

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Mosaic brings Kansas nature to Free State Brewing Co.

By Ashleigh Tidwell
Original publication by the Lawrence Journal-World

Free State server Elizabeth Cunningham makes her way down the stairs past a wall mosaic created by Lawrence artist Lora Jost. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Free State server Elizabeth Cunningham makes her way down the stairs past a wall mosaic created by Lawrence artist Lora Jost. Nick Krug/Journal-World

 

When Chuck Magerl thinks of the natural beauty surrounding Lawrence, he thinks of the Baker Wetlands, the Kaw River and the many farmlands that make up the Kansas landscape.

These elements became inspiration for Magerl, proprietor of Free State Brewing Co. who went in search of an artist who could bring these elements together in one 7-foot-by-7-foot piece of art at the brewery and restaurant.

“We have a lot of original art incorporated into our company,” Magerl said. “I wanted to continue that idea with a mosaic or mural that featured all the things I love about our region.”

Enter Lawrence artist Lora Jost.

Jost, a Kansas native, has spent two decades as an artist, has made hundreds of works in several mediums and has taught the occasional art class at the Lawrence Art Center.

“I had seen some of her smaller projects and I really loved her mosaics, “ Magerl said. “They were exactly what I was looking for for this project.”

Magerl knew it was a huge project to undertake, but he also knew Jost was perfect for the job.

“She was hesitant at first,” Magerl said. “It was quite a larger space than she was used to, but I think she became intrigued with the idea and she agreed.”

The two brainstormed about a design for nearly three months. In the end Jost presented to Magerl a sketch that perfectly encompassed the beauty of the region.

Jost had included the Baker wetlands and its cattails, the Kaw River, fields of wheat, and several native birds including the redwing black bird, the scissor tail flycatcher and, of course, the crow.

The work, titled “Nearly Spring,” depicts the region at the time of year when things are just starting to bloom.

“It’s a beautiful transition period,” Jost said.

Like any artist, Jost wanted to put her own mark on the work, so she added elements that would make it more surreal.

“I wanted to bring in an element of imagination and dreaming,” Jost said. “I added the spirals around the birds and I think that brings the viewer into a new sort of thoughtful space.”

Once the plan was finalized Jost got to work on the project.  Magerl and his team set up a studio at their production site in East Lawrence where Jost worked for the next six months to complete the mosaic.

“It was a lot of slow, calculated work,” Jost said. “I worked nearly full time cutting and placing all of the tiles.”

Jost said much of the work goes into finding the right pieces to make up the mosaic.

“It’s kind of difficult to collect all of the pieces you need,” Jost said. “You can’t always find the colors you want so you’re kind of at the mercy of what you can actually find.”

Many of the pieces Jost used are ceramic dishes she found at thrift shops or garage sales, but others are marbles and shells found on beaches that she’s collected over the years. Jost even included a piece of a bottle featuring the Free State Brewing prairie falcon logo.

The mosaic was installed at Free State Brewery on Jan. 1, in time to help celebrate the brewery’s 25th year.

“It feels like our lives are crafted out of bits and pieces put together to create a whole image,” Magerl said. “And that’s what the mosaic represents.”

To see more of Lora’s work visit lorajost.com

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Anti-terrorism bill passes through the House without opposition

A bill concerning terrorism and the illegal use of weapons of mass destruction passed the House of Representatives Tuesday in a 123 to zero vote.

House Bill 2463, which was introduced by the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice, would allow someone injured through terrorist action to take legal action against that person or group of persons.

The bill states that any victim of terrorist actions is entitled to recover up to three times the actual damages sustained or $10,000, whichever is greater.

The bill also makes it a felony to conceal or aid in the escape of someone who has committed terrorist actions.  Additionally it prohibits anyone from hindering the prosecution of a person who has committed such terrorist actions.

After having initially passed the House in February the bill was sent to the Senate for approval. The Senate made a few minor changes to the bill before approving the bill in a 40 to zero vote and passing the bill back to the House on March 25.

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Health care providers could receive greater protection with new bill

By Ashleigh Tidwell

TOPEKA — After 25 years as a nurse, Joan Horton has received more violent threats than she can count.

“Nurses are quitting the profession because they are tired of being screamed at, having things thrown at them, and having to endure physical and emotional violence on a regular basis,” Horton said.

In the past, cases of assault against health care professionals have been overlooked as nothing more than occupational hazards.

Now, a bill introduced into the House Health and Human Services Committee could increase the penalties for assault and battery of a health care provider.

Horton, President of the Kansas Emergency Nurses Association, spoke at a hearing Thursday to give testimony of the assaults she has received while on the job. She noted that nurses and health care providers constantly face violence.

House Bill 2526, which was passed to the Health and Human Services Committee from the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee, would create a misdemeanor for assault against a health care provider, firefighter, animal control officer or sports official and a felony for aggravated battery against these groups.

At the hearing, there were several questions about the definition of a health care provider.  There were concerns that this bill would cover some and not others.

Rep. Patricia Sloop, D-Wichita, asked that hospice providers be protected under this bill. Her argument was that though they work outside of the hospital environment, they are vulnerable to the same types of violence as any other health care provider.

There were 10 written testimonies submitted in favor of the bill. These testimonies came from the several different health care professional associations as well as the Kansas Sheriffs Association.

Horton said that nurses generally don’t report assaults because there is a history of sweeping these assaults under the rug. She said that many nurses are told that it is part of their job and that they should learn to expect these things to happen.

Horton hopes that this bill would hold offenders accountable for their actions and show that violence will not be tolerated in the health field.

“As word spreads that the violent acts that plague our nurses and other health care providers will be prosecuted, our hope is that the person behind the next punch will recoil and consider that violence is not the answer,” Horton said.

There were no opponents to the bill. The committee is expected to take further action on the bill next week.

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New bill to allow DUI expungement after five years

By Ashleigh Tidwell

TOPEKA — In the House on Thursday, representatives discussed a bill that would allow for DUI convictions or diversions to be expunged after five years.

Introduced by Rep. Jack Thimesch, R- Cunningham, House Bill 2662 would reduce the time period for a DUI conviction or diversion to be petitioned for expungement from 10 years to five.

“It would allow someone who made a mistake in their college years to move on from this and get a job,” Thimesch said.

Thimesch said one bad decision made at a young age shouldn’t prevent a person from reaching his or her full potential.  Allowing for expungement after five years would give people the opportunity to get on with their lives.

“We took 10 years away from these people,” Thimesch said. “They got denied a job and retirement because of this conviction.”

Thimesch noted that the consequences of these decisions go on for longer than necessary and should be amended.

Rep. Janice Pauls, D-Hutchinson, and Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita, both spoke in favor of the bill saying that one bad decision shouldn’t haunt a person for the rest of his or her life.

The bill passed favorably in a preliminary vote. Final action on the bill is expected Friday.

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Locavores: Breaking the Processed Food Cycle

What if we lived in a world with no processed foods? What if there were no McDonald’s, Totino’s pizza, Ramen noodles, or Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese? What if there were no Tyson to give you meat or Dole to give you fruits? Would you be able to grow or raise your own food?

Believe it or not, there is an entire society of people who eat only homegrown, organic, local food products. They do not rely on an industry of over-processed, pre-packaged foods; they have gardens and farms where they grow their own foods and raise animals for meat. Those who do not grow their own foods will buy only from local farms within 100 miles of home. These people identify as locavores, a play on the word carnivore.

Recently, in Lawrence, this group of people came together for the 5th annual Kaw Valley Seed Fair. The fair brought together vendors from local farms and organizations to sell their products and educate the community on the benefits of growing and eating local foods.

“The idea is really to just emphasize information and the idea of sharing information,” said Kirsten Bosmak, member of the organizing committee for the fair. “We want to teach people of the importance of staying local.”

Bosmak also said that one main attraction of the fair is for local farmers and gardeners to bring in seeds that do well in the area, or locally adapted seeds, to trade and share with others at the fair. This promotes sustaining the natural ecosystem in Kansas, as well as encouraging the community to buy local produce. In addition to promoting sustainable practices, the fair promotes small farms and thus small businesses, which will help boost the economy.

Some may call them annoying hippies, but these so called locavores may have the right idea.  In 2010, the New York Times reported that Americans eat 31 percent more processed foods than they do fresh foods (Fairchild, 2010). A daunting statistic considering 80 percent of pre-packaged and processed food in the US contains substances that are banned in most countries (Gucciardi, 2013).   By eating only locally grown foods, locavores are reducing the amount of harmful substances they are ingesting from over-processed food.

Additionally, locavores are significantly increasing the amount of protein they are getting as most produce starts losing its nutritional value after being harvested (Martinez, et.al. 2010). Produce that is not locally grown is said to travel between 1,500 and 3,000 miles after being harvested before it lands on your plate. More miles means more time elapsed since harvesting, which means less nutrition. Additionally, the added miles food must travel puts strain on the environment due to the trains, planes, boats and trucks used to transport them. By reducing the number of miles your food travels from 3,000 to 100 or less significantly decreases the environmental impact. This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg, there are plenty of other reasons people chose to eat locally.

For one, smaller farms do not generally use genetically modified seeds and toxic pesticides or give steroids and hormones to their animals, which means you are not ingesting those harmful chemicals second hand (Martinez, et.al. 2010). Though the FDA claims these hormones are not harmful to humans there is much debate over their effects on childhood development, fertility in men and women, and early puberty.  Industrial farms that use genetically modified seeds to maximize the amount of produce grown tend to sacrifice nutrition in their produce because they gain more nutrients when they are allowed to ripen properly. Additionally, pesticides used tend to contaminate soil and ground water making it harmful for the surrounding community that uses it.

Not only are locavores minimizing the amount of hormones and toxins ingested they are also promoting the humane treatment of animals. Small, local farms generally do not raise chickens in boxes, or pigs and cows in cages (Martinez, et.al. 2010). Most of these farms raise free-range animals that are allowed to roam free and are treated more as pets than a source of income. This is an excellent source of meat for those animal lovers who eat meat but want the animals to live happy lives.

Though eating locally is not always easy when you live in a big city, Kansas is an ideal place to give it a try. There are several local farms around Lawrence who sell produce to vendors in the city. Lawrence also has several farmers’ markets in the spring where local farm owners will come to sell their fresh produce and homemade products.

Jen Humphrey and her wife Jessica Pierson, who attended the Seed Fair, own and operate the Red Tractor Farm in Lawrence. They raise free-range goats and chickens for meat and eggs. They also grow vegetables using non-genetically modified seeds. The couple used the fair in the hopes of promoting their own locally grown products, which includes fabulous homemade pear butter.

“It’s really a great opportunity to get out in the community and introduce some of our products,” Humphrey said. “We also encourage people to sign up for the CSA.”

CSA, or community supported agriculture, is a subscription program that allows community members to receive a weekly supply of fresh produce from three area farms. The program offers the freshest possible produce to its customers while promoting a healthy community and sustainable environment. This is a perfect opportunity for those who want to eat locally and support a local farm without the added middle-man of the grocery store.

“It’s just another way people can help support their local farms,” Humphrey said. “We’re making eating locally as easy as ordering take-out.”

References

Fairfield, H. (2010, April 04). Factory food. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2014, Feb. 23 from: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2010/04/04/business/04metrics_g.html?ref=business

Gucciardi, A. (2013, June 29). 80 percent of processed foods in us are banned in other nations. Nation of Change. Retrieved on 2014, Feb. 23 from http://www.nationofchange.org/80-percent-processed-foods-us-are-banned-other-nations-1372517219

Martinez, S., Hand, M.H., Da Pra, M., Pollack, S., Ralston, K., Smith, T.,…Newman, C.  United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. (2010). Local food systems: Concepts, impacts, and issues (Report No. (ERR-97)). Retrieved on 2014, Feb. 23 from website: http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err-economic-research-report/err97.aspx

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Citizens seek medical exemption to vehicle window tinting laws

By Ashleigh Tidwell

Growing up in Southern California, Larry Nordstrom spent much of his time outside in the sun. In the 50s and 60s there wasn’t much concern about skin protection. People were unaware of the dangerous effects. Sunscreen came in SPF 4 and wore off quickly with sweat and water.

Now at 67 years old, Nordstrom has lived with skin cancer for nearly 20 years. He’s had 11 operations to remove cancerous lesions, and eight of those operations were performed on his face, leaving with him permanent scarring.

Now Nordstrom must take extra precautions to protect his skin from the harsh sunlight. One of the precautions is to tint the windows of his 1995 Dodge Ram pick-up truck.

In order to drive comfortably in his car, Nordstrom needs to have his windows tinted with 20 percent light transmission tinting. In California all levels of tinting are legal but in Kansas that isn’t the case. So, when Nordstrom moved to Manhattan in 2012, his vehicle had illegal window tinting.

Kansas law requires window tinting to allow at least 35 percent light transmission. In May 2013, Kansas State University Police stopped Nordstrom for violating the tinting law.

Shortly after being stopped, Nordstrom contacted Rep. Sydney Carlin, D-Manhattan.

“I found it incredibly unreasonable given my condition,” Nordstrom said. “So I decided to be a good citizen and pursue the matter.”

Carlin agreed and introduced House Bill 2471, which would change state regulations to allow a medical exemption for those with certain conditions to tint their vehicle windows to 20 percent light transmission.

“There are plenty of people with diseases who need this protection,” Carlin said. “People with skin cancer, lupus and macular degeneration, they all have sensitivities to light.”

Carlin noted that at 35 percent light transmission people are still left vulnerable to the light that gets through, which makes driving painful or uncomfortable. Carlin also noted that Kansas is one of only nine states that do not allow such medical exemptions.

“We need to be able to take care of peoples medical disabilities and this is one of them,” Carlin said.

Carlin presented the bill to the House Transportation Committee last week, but there were several concerns. According to Carlin, the major concerns come from law enforcement officers who are concerned about the safety of darker tinted windows.

“They think of gangs when they see it and that’s their concern,” Carlin said.  “But these people are not gang members.”

Carlin’s solution to the safety of the officers is to require a medical exemption sticker to be placed on the bumper of the vehicle.

“If an officer sees the sticker on the bumper they would know there is a reason and they wouldn’t have to pull them over at all,” Carlin said.

Though the medical conditions are real, Carlin is concerned that the fear of safety from the public officials will prevent the bill from making it through committee.

“I understand the concerns,” Nordstrom said. “But legislation is all about compromise. The police and the legislators have to find something they can agree on, a middle ground.”

Nordstrom is hopeful that this legislation will come through so that people with conditions like his can protect themselves.

“Cancer is the enemy here, not us,” Nordstrom said. “There has to be something done.”

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Dome tours at capitol resume after 13 years

Original publication by the Lawrence Journal-World

By Ashleigh Tidwell

If you’ve been through Topeka recently you’ll have noticed that part of the skyline has changed. What used to be a tarnished green dome on the state capitol building is now the magnificent copper color it was meant to be.

After 13 years, more than $300 million of renovations are finally finished. For some this simply means the unsightly crane and scaffolding have been removed. However, it also means that tours to the top of the dome have resumed.

In the two weeks since tours began Feb. 6, more than 1,200 visitors have made the trek to the top.

“We’ve definitely had a lot of interest in the tours,” said tour guide Joe Brentano. “After so many years of it being closed, people are excited to get up there again.”

It’s a good thing too, because excitement might be the only thing that gets a visitor up all 296 steps. It could be fatigue that slows you down, or it could be the sight of bright yellow spiral staircase suspended over a 304-foot drop to the bottom.

“People do get a little scared,” Brentano said. “We generally tell them to focus on the stairs and try not to use their peripheral vision.”

For those who make it to the top, the view — 30 miles in each direction — is breathtaking. Visitors can even see the slope of the Kansas River Valley in which the city sits.

“The view really speaks for itself,” Brentano said.

Though many of the visitors are school kids, Brentano said there is also a lot of interest from native Topekans who haven’t been up since their own school days.

“Some of the older people remember maybe a high school trip they took and they go up to kind of relive or have that nostalgic experience,” Brentano said.

However, the younger kids tend to be more thrilled by the experience.

“The little kids seem to have no fear,” Brentano said. “They like to get up there because it’s a big adventure.”

See the accompanying photo video by Ashleigh Tidwell: http://www2.ljworld.com/videos/2014/feb/24/35863/

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Bill allowing open carry of firearms moves to House floor

The House Federal and State Affairs committee met Wednesday for final action on a bill designed to unify open-carry gun laws across the state.

House Bill 2473, which is sponsored by Rep. Jim Howell, R-Derby, would prevent local governments from enacting their own regulations and provide a blanket law regulating the purchase, possession and carrying of firearms. The committee made several amendments to the bill before passing it on without opposition.

One such amendment, offered by Rep. Michael Houser, R-Columbus, would allow Kansans to carry loaded handguns inside their automobiles without the need for a concealed carry permit. Houser said that this amendment would extend the privacy of one’s home to their vehicle.

In his closing statement Houser noted that 14 other states have similar laws that allow people to carry loaded handguns in their vehicles.

Though the bill expands the ability to carry a firearm it does include amendments that restrict certain facets of the law.

One amendment would prohibit those convicted of violent crimes with a weapon from obtaining a concealed carry license, while another would make it illegal to carry or operate a firearm while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The bill will now move to the House floor where legislators will debate before voting.

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