A Kansas law that allows the blind and others with serious physical infirmities to carry concealed firearms in public places remains on the state’s books following the 2011 legislative session.
And now the state’s elected official responsible for overseeing the concealed carry program is declining to answer questions about the provision.
In February, the Journal-World reported that changes to the concealed carry law had removed the state’s ability to deny a license based on a person’s physical condition and had removed all requirements that people seeking to renew their license pass a test where they hit at least 18 of 25 targets with a firearm.
At the time, a spokesman with Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who oversees the concealed carry program, expressed surprise that the state no longer had such legal authority but said the issue would be researched further.
This week, the attorney general’s office confirmed that the state no longer has the ability to deny renewal applications based on concerns that the applicant can’t safely handle a firearm. The office also could not point to any efforts that Schmidt made to get the law changed during the recent legislative session.
“The state’s lawmakers have balanced various public policy interests in crafting the concealed carry law, and the attorney general will administer it as it is written — now and in the future,” Jeff Wagaman, deputy chief of staff for Schmidt, said in a written statement.
Schmidt — through Wagaman — declined to comment on why he did not seek a change in the law and declined to answer whether he thinks the lack of testing has weakened the law.
The top Democratic lawmaker in the Kansas House, however, said he thought lawmakers needed to conduct a more thorough review of the state’s concealed carry law, which has been modified several times since its passage in 2006.
“You certainly hope it doesn’t take some kind of tragedy to get people’s attention to see that we perhaps have made some mistakes in how we’ve changed this law,” said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence. “I think we do need to look at the law in a comprehensive way.”
The changes, which took effect in 2010, removed a phrase from the law that gave the state the right to deny applicants a license if they “suffer from a physical infirmity which prevents the safe handling of a weapon.” The original law also required people applying for a renewal of their license to take a test that required them to hit at least 18 of 25 targets from distances ranging from 3 yards to 10 yards. But the new law removed that requirement as well. People applying for a license for the first time still are required to take the test.
Rep. Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys and a leading concealed carry proponent, defended the changes this week.
“I think it should be up to the individual,” Carlson said. “If they are a law-abiding citizen, then I think it should be self-determination of whether or not they are capable of it.”
But Carlson conceded that his approach could lead to people holding a license who could no longer pass the basic firearms test. He said that did not concern him.
“We tend to look for all the reasons why someone should not be qualified to carry concealed, but actually I think we should look for the reasons why they should be qualified,” Carlson said.
Carlson said he expects future legislation to push for removal of the requirement that new applicants take the shooting test. Davis said he expects proposals to loosen the concealed carry law — or perhaps go to an Arizona-style system that allows anyone who can legally own a gun to carry concealed — to be introduced in the future.
Several changes to the law have been made since its passage in 2006. They include:
• A law change that allows concealed carry permit holders to carry their weapons into bars, schools, churches and libraries, unless the establishments post a no guns sign. In the original law, those places were automatically prohibited, regardless of whether a sign was posted.
• Changes that no longer require license holders to submit to a Breathalyzer test when a law enforcement officer has reason to believe the license holder is intoxicated. Previously, a refusal to take such a test resulted in the automatic suspension of the concealed carry license for three years.
• Removal of several offenses that prohibited a person from receiving a concealed carry license. People who originally were prohibited from receiving a license who now are eligible include: people with two misdemeanor DUI convictions in the past five years; people with misdemeanor drug convictions; people who have been convicted of carrying under the influence in another state; and individuals who have been declared in contempt of court for child support proceedings.