It’s now legal for visitors to enter the Kansas Capitol carrying a concealed firearm without a permit.
Concealed carry became legal in the Capitol last year. A person could take a gun in if he or she presented a permit to the Kansas Highway Patrol officers who provide security at the entrance.
This year, the Legislature passed a bill lifting the requirement that a person get a permit to carry a concealed firearm.
That law, which went into effect July 1, means a person does not need to go through a background check or training in order to carry a concealed gun on the sidewalk or other public spaces, including the Capitol.
“We’re still screening everybody like we did when we were letting people with concealed carry licenses in,” said Officer Patrick Saleh with the Highway Patrol’s Capitol Police. “We still need to check bags and packages for explosives. The only thing that’s changed is we’re not asking them for their concealed carry ID card. But otherwise they’re still coming through the screening center and we’re letting them right in as though they had a permit for it.”
Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, one of the main proponents of the new law, said in an e-mail that the Capitol “should be treated just like any other public building in our state” and that “Kansans should be able to exercise their rights under the Second Amendment in this building.”
Gun control advocates say that allowing a person to carry a gun into the Capitol without any minimum requirements poses risks. The Capitol, which houses the Legislature and the governor’s office, is a popular destination for families and for school field trips.
“To allow people to carry loaded, hidden guns without first going through a background check or require any sort of training is a terrible and bad idea for public safety in Kansas,” said Brian Malte, senior national policy director with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, R-Palco, who carried the legislation on the House floor, said it would be hypocritical for lawmakers to prevent people from bringing guns into the Capitol, He noted that lawmakers are able enter the building without going through metal detectors or being searched by security.
“I hate the idea of us treating ourselves differently,” he said.
He acknowledged that the Capitol could be a target for a gunman, but said allowing people to carry guns for self defense made the building safer.
“There’s a lot of legislators that are carrying, I’m sure. And there’s a lot of lobbyists that carry every day … and a lot of them are pretty good dang shots, so I feel pretty good about that,” Couture-Lovelady said. “And as far as those that want to do harm to us in the Capitol, if they really want to cause problems, if they really want to have a mass shooting in the Capitol the little metal detectors aren’t going to stop them. All they have to do is get someone in the building and then go to a side door and let people in with the big guns. So I just think it’s another instance of a false sense of security.”
Not all lawmakers are supportive of allowing guns into the Capitol without restrictions.
Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, said that she doesn’t fear for her own safety but she worries that this makes the building more dangerous for kids visiting.
“I do have concerns for children who are visiting on field trips. I feel like it’s a less safe for the public,” she said. “There’s a different view where as a lawmaker I accept that risk where as a member of the public, do they really need to accept that?”
Clayton said her chief concern was not that there would be an active shooter, but that allowing guns into the building without requiring training increases the risk of a gun going off by accident.
“That’s what’s going to hurt us, is a misfire through a lack of training,” she said.