A law-abiding citizen carrying a legally concealed weapon probably wouldn't have made Massachusetts Street any safer during the Sunday shootout that left one man dead and another injured.
"I don't believe it would have helped you that night," Lawrence Police Capt. Dave Cobb said.
Members of the Kansas Senate today are expected to debate a proposal legalizing the carrying of concealed weapons.
Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin and Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern are officially neutral on the bill.
And police are still investigating the shooting. But police have said more people at the scene than just the shooter were armed. A concealed-carry law might have made things more complicated, Cobb said.
"The bad thing is, an officer pulls up and guns are out and we don't know who has a permit and who doesn't," he said.
But gun advocates in Lawrence said they thought the benefits of a concealed-carry law would outweigh the negatives.
"I don't have any problem at all with somebody carrying a gun if they pass a background check and get the proper training," said Doug Coffman, owner of Coffman's Repair & Custom Gunsmith Shop, 740 N. Seventh St.
The current legislation is similar to past proposals vetoed by Gov. Bill Graves in 1997 and by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in 2004. If passed, Kansas residents age 21 or older who are U.S. citizens could obtain a permit by filling out an application with their local sheriff and paying a fee of up to $150.
If the bill passes, Kansas would join 36 "shall issue" states, meaning if a person clears all the hurdles, the state must issue the concealed gun permit. Eight other states have "may issue" laws, giving officials latitude. Two states - Alaska and Vermont - have no prohibitions for carrying a concealed weapon.
Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran noted the governor's previous veto, but said the governor is reserving judgment on the current bill. Sebelius has, however, supported concealed carry for retired law enforcement officers, Corcoran said.
The proposal has split Lawrence's two state senators. Marci Francisco, a Democrat, opposes it, while Roger Pine, a Republican, is a supporter.
"Most of my constituents I've heard from have reservations about the idea of concealed carry," Francisco said. "Nobody has made a strong argument why they would need to conceal a weapon that they would want to carry," she said.
But Pine said concealed carry has proven beneficial elsewhere.
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"In those states where they have that, that has been a positive deterrent against crime," he said.
Police chief neutral
Backers of the law tout its requirement that permit holders undergo an eight-hour safety course as part of the application process.
Olin explained Wednesday why he is remaining neutral on the matter.
"The truth is, the criminals we come in contact with do not have permits, but they still carry guns," Olin said in a statement issued through Cobb. "They will probably still have guns."
Olin also noted that city ordinance prohibits firearms in close proximity of any business that serves alcohol. And there are other places a gun couldn't legally be taken, such as the courthouse or schools or any business with a posted prohibition.
Doug Wahl, owner of Lawrence Pawn & Jewelry, 944 E. 23rd St., said training would be an important component of the law. He said that he has seen people who claimed they knew how to handle guns, yet obviously didn't.
Wahl's wife, Diane Wahl, who co-owns the business, had other thoughts. She said she was concerned about guns in the hands of "nervous Nellies and people trying to show off."
Doug Wahl and Coffman said they thought the mere possibility that someone was toting a gun would be enough to make bad guys think twice.
"A lot of times, if people think the other guy might have a gun, that might act as a deterrent," he said.
How concealed carry would work in Kansas
Kansas residents who are 21 or older and are U.S. citizens could obtain a permit by filling out an application with their local sheriff and paying a fee of up to $150. The attorney general's office would issue permits after conducting background checks to eliminate those with a felony record, a history of mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction, or a physical infirmity that would prevent the safe handling of a firearm. Once approved, the person would be required to complete an eight-hour safety and training course by a firearms instructor certified by the attorney general or the National Rifle Assn.