Politics & Government

Kansas Senate bill would let any legal gun owner secretly carry without permit

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The state Senate is poised to pass a bill that would allow any Kansan who can legally own a gun to carry it concealed in public.

On Wednesday, senators introduced the so-called constitutional carry bill with 26 co-sponsors, five more than the number of votes needed to pass the bill through the chamber and send it to the House.

Kansas already allows the open carrying of firearms in most public places as a result of legislation passed last year, but carrying concealed requires a gun-safety training class and a state-issued permit.

Senate Bill 45 would negate the need for the class or the permit to carry a concealed weapon in Kansas, although gun owners could still obtain a state concealed-carry permit if they want to carry in other states that honor Kansas permits, said Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson and the measure’s primary sponsor.

“It’s our belief it will lead to more protection of individuals,” Bruce said, adding that he doesn’t expect it to cause an increase in gun violence.

“Most incidents, I believe, they resolve themselves with the gun being brandished,” he said. “I don’t think that it’s necessarily going to elevate shootings.”

Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, said she will oppose the bill.

“It’s scary,” she said. “It is like we are going back to the wild, wild West.”

Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, a former prosecutor, said he’d advise caution.

“We’ve done so much with our gun laws in the last couple years, why don’t we just take a break for a year or two and settle in with this new stuff and see what if any holes are in our gun laws, before we just randomly throw things out there and hope nothing bad happens?” Ward said.

The Republican-controlled Legislature approved concealed carry with a permit in 2006, overriding a veto by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat. That made Kansas a “shall-issue” state, meaning law enforcement agencies don’t have the discretion to deny a permit to anyone who meets the qualifications.

Last year, lawmakers clarified the rules on openly carrying a gun, ensuring it would be legal in most public places. The Legislature also stripped cities and counties of authority to regulate guns in their jurisdictions. Those provisions were signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Bruce said he has been unable to find any definitive gun-violence data on states that have switched from requiring concealed-weapons permits to allowing concealed carry without a permit.

Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Vermont and Wyoming allow concealed carry without a permit in some form, Bruce said.

The plan is called constitutional carry based on an interpretation that the Bill of Rights gives Americans a virtually unfettered right to keep and bear arms.

“We’re expanding what have been seen as Kansans’ Second Amendment rights,” Bruce said. “We think that it’s the right direction to go.”

Bruce said certain felons and some mental-health patients would be prohibited from carrying guns. Federal laws ban the sale of guns to most convicted felons, illegal drug users, domestic batterers and individuals who have been involuntarily committed to mental institutions.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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