A bill that would enable Kansans to carry concealed weapons without going through background checks or required training will head to the Kansas House floor for a vote.
SB 45, which has already passed the Kansas Senate, would put Kansas among a small number of states allowing what is called constitutional carry. People would no longer need to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm. Similar policies are in place in Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Vermont and Wyoming.
The bill was approved by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee on Tuesday. It is backed by the National Rifle Association and Kansas State Rifle Association. But it has drawn criticism from national gun control groups, such as the Brady Campaign, and some members of the Kansas law enforcement community who say it increases risks to public safety.
Under current law, a person must undergo a background check and receive gun safety training before he or she can get a permit to carry a concealed firearm. The bill also would enable people previously denied permits by the attorney general's office to carry concealed weapons.
Rep. John Wilson, D-Lawrence, said eliminating this requirement would allow dangerous and untrained people to carry hidden, loaded weapons.
Republican lawmakers, however, said the bill would put law-abiding citizens on the same footing as armed criminals.
“Dangerous people already do carry guns,” said Rep. Brett Hildabrand, R-Shawnee.
Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, R-Palco, the bill’s main proponent on the committee, said a person can learn proper gun safety outside of state-required training and that this should be a personal responsibility for gun owners.
“You don't necessarily have to take a class to be proficient. Heck, I learned from grandpa on the farm,” he said.
Rep. Bud Estes, R-Dodge City, supported the bill based on his belief in the Second Amendment but acknowledged concerns that it would make interactions between police and citizens more tense if a person was not carrying a permit.
Permits would still be available for people who want to use them in the other states that accept Kansas’ permit.
Couture-Lovelady said that in the nine years that have passed since the state approved concealed carry, Kansans had shown they are able to handle guns responsibly. He said it was time to stop requiring people to ask the government for permission.
Wilson noted that the bill treats guns differently from other weapons. Kansas law would still prohibit the carrying of other deadly weapons, such as bludgeons, blunt clubs and throwing stars.
After the hearing, Couture-Lovelady said carrying those weapons probably ought to be legal, too, but that this bill was focused on firearms.