The Kansas Legislature is considering a bill that would allow most people over the age of 21 to carry a concealed gun without a license. The Kansas Senate has already approved the measure and this week a House committee approved it, sending it to the full House chamber. Right now, anyone wanting to carry a concealed weapon must first obtain a permit, which requires firearms training and a background check. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, Kansas might soon become the fifth state to allow concealed carry without a license.
(Sound of vehicle starting, driving)
I’m actually driving right now. I just left the Kansas Statehouse. You might be thinking 'what does this have to do with concealed carry?' Some people point out that I had to get a license to drive because it can be dangerous if you drive around and you don’t know what you’re doing. They say you should be required to get a license and training to carry a concealed gun.
“They’re two vastly different things,” says Patricia Stoneking.
That’s Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association. She says driving and carrying a gun aren’t on the same playing field.
“Because driving is a privilege and firearms are a protected right under the constitution,” says Stoneking.
Republican Representative Steve Brunk says this is about allowing Kansans to protect themselves. He says criminals who are barred from carrying might carry guns illegally no matter what the laws say. Brunk points out that we already allow Kansans to openly carry a gun without a license.
“We do have open carry, that’s freely open in the state of Kansas, without incident. We have had concealed carry with licensing that has been without incident. It is our belief that it’s time for the government to trust the citizens,” says Brunk.
But some people believe concealed carry without a license takes things to a whole new level. Democratic Representative John Wilson says going from unlicensed open carry to unlicensed concealed carry is a big step.
“At least with open carry, if I walk into an Applebee’s and see somebody with a rifle I can say ‘I’m not taking my family, my two-and-a-half-year-old son to Applebee’s.’ I can’t make that decision myself if they’re concealed, and I think that really is a problem,” says Wilson.
Wilson is a hunter and says he supports the 2nd Amendment. But he says society can put reasonable requirements on exercising your constitutional rights to help promote public safety.
“That’s why we can’t have sawed-off shotguns, that’s why felons can’t have weapons. Nobody’s trying to infringe upon that right,” says Wilson.
Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson says training also increases safety for firearm owners. He says it can help gun owners learn how to interact with the police. He uses the example of an untrained gun owner who is holding a suspect at gunpoint when the police arrive.
“And they get there, order him to drop the gun. He wants to explain that he’s helping, points the gun towards the officers and is shot. Now the officers live with that, of course his family lives with that, and it’s just unnecessary,” says Henderson.
But supporters of carrying without a license say a class and a few minutes shooting at the range don’t suddenly guarantee a person knows how to safely use a gun. Chris Brown, a Wichita resident who testified in favor of the bill, says he learned to safely use a gun from his father, who was not a government-approved teacher.
“I didn't have to have my dad have government training to teach me on the safety and rules of guns, and I’ve taught those same traits to my kids,” says Brown.
The legislation is now waiting before the Kansas House. If they pass it, the bill will go to the governor for consideration.