Kansas proposal would allow concealed carry with no permit

? Coming off legislative victories in recent years, gun-rights advocates pushed Kansas lawmakers Thursday to allow the state’s residents to carry concealed firearms without requiring them to obtain a permit.

The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee had a hearing on a bill to expand concealed carry to anyone in Kansas who can legally own a gun. The panel took no action, but its chairman promised a vote, and several members made comments supporting the measure.

All states allow some form concealed carry, but the National Rifle Association says Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming don’t require a permit anywhere in the state, while Montana allows it without a permit outside of cities, which is most of the state.

Kansas last year enacted an NRA-backed law prohibiting local restrictions on gun sales, gun ownership and the open carrying of firearms. A 2013 law declares that the federal government has no authority to regulate firearms manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas, and it’s illegal to use state tax dollars to promote or oppose gun-control policies.

Supporters of the bill noted that Kansas law has long allowed gun owners to carry their firearms openly in public without a permit. They noted that gun-ownership rights are protected by both the state and federal constitutions.

“Self-defense is a natural right,” said Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association. “We don’t have to obtain a permit to have our freedom of speech.”

But David Nichols, a Salina resident, a Marine and an NRA member, said while he strongly supports constitutional protections for gun ownership, he believes people who carry concealed weapons should have proper training. To get a concealed carry permit in Kansas, someone must undergo eight hours of firearms training.

“I don’t feel that a requirement for training does anything to infringe on a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms,” he told the committee. “What a requirement for training does is help to ensure the safety of all citizens.”

Even if the bill is enacted, the state would still issue permits so gun owners can carry concealed in other states that accept the Kansas permit. About 90,000 permits have been issued since January 2007, according to the attorney general’s office.

Legislators enacted the concealed carry law in 2006, over the veto of then-Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Permits are good for four years and cost $132.50.

Stoneking said allowing concealed carry without a permit is important because some senior citizens on fixed incomes or poor Kansas residents can’t afford the permit fees.

Loren Stanton, president of the Kansas chapter of the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence, an opponent of the bill, said if there are concerns that people can’t afford the fees, perhaps the state could provide subsidies.