People could carry a concealed firearm without a permit or training under a bill approved by the Kansas Senate on Thursday.
Senate Bill 45, which passed 31-7, would make Kansas a “constitutional carry” state, grouping it with Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming. Montana requires no permit outside city limits.
Kansans still could get a permit if they wanted to carry a concealed gun legally in 36 other states.
Senate approval did not come without some people voicing concerns. Several Wichita business people have raised concerns privately to lawmakers about the bill’s potential impact on businesses. Bill Warren, the owner of Warren Theatres, has spoken publicly against the bill, saying he thinks it will increase his insurance rates.
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Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, voted for the bill but said she supported it with uncertainty.
She asked that business leaders who are concerned get involved in the legislative process as the bill moves to the House “and help the Legislature separate fact from fiction to eliminate any unintended consequences.”
“Today we must vote, and when in doubt, I believe that if we err, we ought to do so on the side of freedom and the continued protection of our most basic constitutional rights,” she said.
Her speech helped sway Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, to support the bill after he initially passed on the measure. “She swung me over,” he said.
Sen. Jacob LaTurner, R-Pittsburg, who carried the bill, called it common sense.
“I think it’s a very logical step for the Legislature to take,” he said. “We allow open carry. We allow concealed carry if you’re hunting or fishing. I think this makes a lot of sense.”
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, explained his opposition to the bill despite past support for gun rights legislation.
He said he could not in good conscience support the bill without answers about whether it would cause businesses’ insurance rates to increase or whether it might endanger public safety.
LaTurner said Wednesday that the Kansas Insurance Department does not think the bill will lead to rate increases.
Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, who supported the measure, said he wanted to put law-abiding citizens on equal footing with armed criminals.
After the bill’s initial passage Wednesday, several readers contacted The Eagle with concerns.
Tom Sprenkel, a retiree from Lenexa, disputed the notion that the bill would increase public safety, writing in an e-mail that “people who have easy access to guns are the ones who commit crime and use the gun to shoot and kill people.”
John Commerford, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said earlier in the week that Arizona’s crime rate dropped when it adopted a similar law.
But gun safety groups, such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, expressed concern that people without training might be able to carry hidden, loaded guns in public.
“Moms don’t want to sit down for dinner at a restaurant with their families next to an armed customer who has never even handled a gun before, who doesn’t have a license, and who can carry with no questions asked,” said Terri Lynn Barnett Miller, a volunteer with the group’s Kansas chapter, in a statement.
Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, said the majority of Kansans support greater gun rights, based on the 2010 constitutional amendment that clarified the right of each person to bear arms, which passed by 89 percent. She also said that since the state already allows people to carry openly without a permit, allowing people who are at least 21 to carry without a permit will not be a major change.
“Why would we all of a sudden say 21-year-olds who are going to be able to put a jacket over the gun are any different than if they didn’t have a jacket over the gun?” she said. “It’s not logical. It’s not a logical conclusion.”
How they voted
Here’s how south-central Kansas lawmakers voted on SB 45 to allow concealed-carry without a permit or training. The bill passed 31-7.
Republicans voting yes: Les Donovan, Michael O’Donnell, Mike Petersen and Susan Wagle, Wichita; Steve Abrams, Arkansas City; Terry Bruce, Hutchinson; Dan Kerschen, Garden Plain; Forrest Knox, Altoona; Ty Masterson, Andover; Richard Wilborn, McPherson
Democrats voting no: Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita
Republicans not voting: Carolyn McGinn, Sedgwick