Topeka Backers of a new law allowing Kansans to carry concealed guns plan to seek legislation yet this year to keep applications for gun permits and the identities of permit holders secret.
Concerns about privacy arose during the first meeting Wednesday of a task force Atty. Gen. Phill Kline formed to help his office draft regulations. Those regulations will cover items not typically spelled out in state law, such as what's on application forms and what kind of signs business owners must post if they don't want hidden guns on their premises.
The law, which takes effect July 1, doesn't say whether applications for concealed carry permits, information collected on applicants from sheriffs or lists of permit holders must be open to the public. It was among several oversights identified by task force members during their 2 1/2-hour meeting.
The Legislature is taking its annual spring break but plans to reconvene April 26 to wrap up the business of its regular session.
"We believe it is important to keep citizen privacy foremost in this," Kline said. "Law enforcement will know if somebody is carrying, but we believe that beyond that, it should not be known."
But Doug Anstaett, executive director of the Kansas Press Assn., criticized the proposal to keep the records closed, saying keeping such records open will allow public oversight to guard the integrity of the permitting process.
"As a state, we believe the public has a need to know all kinds of information," he said. "Why should this be different?"
The law will take effect because legislators last month overrode Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' veto of a concealed guns bill, her second in two years. The law permits Kansans to obtain four-year permits from the attorney general's office if they are American citizens, 21 or older and have completed eight hours of training. Kline's office must begin issuing permits by Jan. 1, 2007.
Concealed guns still will be banned in some locations, including bars, taverns, schools, courthouses, churches and day care centers. Also, property owners can declare hidden weapons off limits by posting signs.
The law bars people from obtaining permits if they've been convicted of a felony or been committed for a mental illness within the previous five years. The state doesn't keep a central registry of who's been committed, so task force members also plan to seek legislation establishing one.
"I think there's always room for improvement, regardless of the nature of the legislation," said sponsoring Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville, a task force member. "I think we found several areas that could use a little refinement."
Neighboring Missouri's concealed carry law, enacted in 2003, contains a provision that keeps applications and permit holders' records private. Journey and others believe that because the Kansas law is silent on the issue, the state's Open Records Act would require such documents to be available to the public.
Rep. L. Candy Ruff, D-Leavenworth, a task force member, noted that she began pushing concealed gun legislation because rape victims asked her to do so. She said criminals and stalkers shouldn't know that their victims and targets have concealed weapons.
"This is very different," Ruff said. "I just think that this is a privacy issue. I've come too far as an advocate for these women to give it up now."
Anstaett noted that backers of the concealed gun law often accused opponents of resorting to scare tactics by expressing concern that such a law would increase gun violence. He said in trying to keep records closed, those backers of the law are doing the same thing.
Nor, Anstaett said, would it be acceptable to limit access to the records to news organizations.
"These records should be available to the public and the press," he said.
Meanwhile, five subcommittees will tackle drafting new regulations to handle more technical questions, such as what an application form should look like. People seeking permits will file their applications with local sheriffs, who will forward them to the attorney general's office, along with the person's fingerprints.
"Our timeline on some of this is pretty darn short," Kline told task force members.