Even the president of the Kansas State Rifle Association acknowledged to a Journal-World reporter last week that guns and alcohol generally are a bad combination. It just seems like common sense that the state shouldn’t make it harder to enforce laws against someone carrying a concealed firearm while under the influence of alcohol.
Nonetheless, changes enacted by the Kansas Legislature this year, have done just that.
Lawmakers eliminated several factors from the law that could disqualify someone from receiving a concealed carry license in the first place. Before this year’s action, someone could be denied a permit if he or she had two misdemeanor DUI or drug convictions in five years or had been convicted of carrying a gun while under the influence in another state during the same time period. Now, those and a number of other factors no longer can disqualify someone from receiving a concealed carry license.
A more significant step, however, seems to be new restrictions placed on enforcing laws against carrying a concealed gun while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Now, a law enforcement officer can compel someone carrying a concealed weapon to submit to a breath test only after that person has shot someone. If no shooting has occurred, a person can refuse a breath test without penalty.
It seems the equivalent of letting drivers avoid breath tests and possible prosecution for driving while intoxicated until they have an accident and perhaps kill someone else in the process.
The new law goes on to say that people with concealed carry permits can be found in violation of the law only if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol “to such a degree as to render such licensee incapable of safely operating a handgun.” Since they can’t force breath tests, are law enforcement officers supposed to take suspects to a firing range to test their shooting skills?
As Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, pointed out in Friday’s story, changes in the state’s concealed carry law are slowly eroding provisions in the law that were placed there for a reason. Some Kansans support that trend, but those who were uneasy about the original concealed carry law have even more reason to be concerned now.