Topeka Kansans so far aren't flocking to get permits to carry concealed guns like supporters had anticipated when the law was put on the books earlier this year. But they say the numbers may pick up before the end of the year.
So far, the attorney general's office has received nearly 3,600 applicants for gun permits under the law enacted this year at the rate of about 40 a day, said Chuck Sexson, director of the Concealed Carry Handgun Licensing Unit in the attorney general's office.
He said about 2,600 permits have been approved and the rest are going through the approval process, adding that none have been rejected.
"I think at the beginning we were projecting 20,000 to 25,000 in the first couple of years based on other states. I don't know what might hold folks off from applying," Sexson said. "It's probably less than we had anticipated when we started. Maybe it'll increase as we get closer to January."
Sen. Phil Journey, who sponsored the concealed guns legislation, said one reason for the less-than-expected number of applicants is the process itself. Before sending an application to the attorney general's office, an applicant first must complete an eight-hour training course by any of 347 certified trainers and be fingerprinted by their sheriff's office.
"We have had a problem getting enough trainers. They had to go through their own training to be certified. There has been a significant waiting period but they are catching up," said Journey, R-Haysville.
Journey estimated some 1,000 people are in the process of being trained or submitting fingerprints. Applicants must pay for training which Sexson said averages about $150 and the four-year permit cost another $150.
"Hopefully it's not a pricing issue that is keeping people from getting the permits," Journey said. "You could see a rush before the end of the year. There are classes going on all over the state."
Sexson said about three-fourths of the applicants have been men.
"What we're finding out is that applicants are coming from all walks of life. What motivates them to want that level of protection is a personal thing and varies from person to person," Sexson said. "Some of have been victims of crimes. Some feel it's their constitutional right."
Much of the training involves explaining the law regarding carrying a concealed gun including when deadly force can be used.
"Carrying a concealed firearm has a tremendous responsibility with it," Sexson said. "We hope everybody with a license will take it seriously and there won't be any issue with it."
After training, the application is submitted to the attorney general's office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation conducts a background check. Sexson said it takes about two weeks to complete the checks although it could be longer if additional investigations are needed.
He said the police chief or sheriff where the person lives can submit a report stating why the person shouldn't be issued a permit, although that hasn't happened. That could cover such situations as a person being charged recently with a felony and that information not being in a database.
Kansas is among the 48 states allowing concealed guns with Wisconsin and Illinois the two exceptions. The National Rifle Association says Kansas is among 36 "shall issue" states, meaning if a person meets all requirements, they must be issued the permit. The NRA said that in the other states, the final decision on permits is left to law enforcement except Vermont which doesn't require permits.
"Even though we have a bad vibe about someone, that's not enough to disqualify them. It depends on what the records turn up in a background check," said Sexson, a retired KBI agent.
Those approved for a permit will start being notified in December. The permits will be available starting Jan. 2 at various Division of Motor Vehicles driver's license stations throughout the state.
The permit will resemble a driver's license, with the person's photograph, name and address and the notation in red letters: Concealed Carry License. They also have the option of having their driver's license or state identification card carry a notation that they have a concealed gun permit rather than having a separate permit card.
The law requires the person to have either the permit or driver's license with the permit notation with them whenever they are carrying a concealed weapon.
Sexson's office is reviewing concealed gun permit requirements in other states to decide which ones will be to be honored in Kansas.
The law permits Kansans to obtain concealed gun permits if they are American citizens, 21 or older and completed the training. It bars people convicted of a felony or committed for a mental illness within the previous five years.
Concealed guns are banned in some locations, including bars, taverns, schools, courthouses, churches and day-care centers. Also, property owners can ban concealed guns by posting a sign.