Editorial: Rights, responsibility

A bill facing the Kansas House is justified as a way to protect gun rights, but does too little to ensure gun responsibility.

Even many supporters of Second Amendment gun rights have serious reservations about a bill now advancing to the floor of the Kansas House.

The bill, which already has passed the Kansas Senate, would make it legal to carry a concealed firearm without obtaining a license. That means gun owners wouldn’t have to meet any of the training or background check requirements that now are part of obtaining a license. They may not know how to safely handle the gun; they may have serious mental health issues; but if they can legally own a gun in Kansas, they would be able to conceal that gun and carry it in many Kansas locations.

The only real reason for a Kansan to obtain a concealed carry license is so he or she could legally carry a gun in other states that have reciprocal licensing arrangements with Kansas.

Supporters of this bill say it is a needed protection for Second Amendment rights, but safety also should be a concern. Many Kansans remain uncomfortable with the whole idea of concealed carry, but the current law, which requires Kansans to pass a gun safety class and undergo a background check before obtaining a concealed carry license, hasn’t had a significant negative impact on the state. That process is designed to make sure people who carry guns are mentally stable and physically able to handle a gun in a way that doesn’t pose a threat to the safety of themselves or others. This bill would eliminate that process.

The licensing process also has assisted law enforcement officials who could ask to see someone’s concealed carry license and use that license to verify that a gun owner had been trained and screened and was legally qualified to handle that firearm. Some Kansans still will have concealed-carry licenses, but all others will require extra vigilance from law enforcement officers.

Carrying a firearm is a right, but that right comes with responsibilities. People who now have concealed-carry licenses recognize those responsibilities and have complied with reasonable requirements to exercise that right. Eliminating those requirements would open the door to more irresponsible firearm use in the state. It’s a bad idea that House members should reject.