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The Kansas House on Tuesday moved to expand gun rights, passing a bill that would lower the age of concealed carry to 18 and allow Kansas to recognize similar licenses issued by other states.
The measure, hotly debated for almost two hours before passing by a voice vote, will likely receive a final passage on Wednesday.
Advocates rejected arguments that the bill could endanger lives.
“We’re not training people to go into combat and to kill people,” said Rep. Stephen Owens, R-Hesston. “We are training people for self-defense.”
Kansas law has what is called constitutional carry, or the right to carry a firearm in any capacity, for residents 21 and older. A concealed carry license, available to those who complete required training, allows the holder to carry in states that have reciprocal agreements with Kansas.
Under the new law, the minimum age for concealed carry training would drop to 18. Residents who don’t receive a license at 18 would still be allowed constitutional carry in the state at age 21.
Supporters said the bill said it’s about having protection when “crazy” happens.
“I happen to have a 19 year old daughter who wishes very much to have the opportunity to protect herself in her time of need,” Owens said.
Several lawmakers expressed concern in light of a recent active shooter incident outside a Fairway elementary school. Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, D-Prairie Village, proposed an amendment limiting licensees to carrying 10 rounds of ammunition, saying it could reduce injury or death in the event of a shooting.
“Those few seconds can be the difference between life and death for an elementary school student, teacher or law enforcement officer,” Stogsdill said.
The amendment was found unrelated to the bill and was rejected..
Other opponents said they worried about weapons on college campuses. Until 2017, Kansas universities were exempt from a 2013 law allowing the carry of concealed weapons in public buildings. Democratic lawmakers staunchly opposed the law when it passed, and have been trying to repeal it ever since.
Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence used Tuesday’s debate to reopen the issue, offering an amendment prohibiting concealed carry on state campuses. Ballard said the current law has affected retention and recruitment of students and faculty.
“We know that students can get upset about their grades and what else happens in the classroom,” she said. “And faculty are wary of the fact they could be angry and hostile coming into their office.”
Ballard’s amendment failed by a vote of 43 to 75. KU College Republicans issued a statement Tuesday afternoon rebuking her for the attempted repeal.
“We are disappointed that a Representative from our community would recklessly endanger students, when campus conceal carry has proven effective,” said group President Garrett Miller.
Rep. Stephanie Clayton, D-Overland Park, was one of many lawmakers who spoke in opposition to the bill. Clayton said she thought the debate remained civil, but was disappointed to see the legislation pass.
“I knew that the amendment to lower the concealed carry age was coming. I was still highly disappointed that it passed,” Clayton said.
“It went absolutely the way I expected,” she added. “This is the Kansas legislature after all.”
The bill now heads to the Senate for approval before going to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the location of the elementary school. It has been updated to reflect that the school was located in Fairway.