Loophole could allow 18-year-olds to carry concealed guns in Kansas

? The House Federal and State Affairs Committee put off voting on bills that would roll back parts of an upcoming mandate that people be allowed to carry concealed weapons in most public buildings, but it did hear testimony about a loophole in current law that would enable people as young as 18 to carry concealed firearms, including on college campuses.

That’s because while Kansas allows concealed-carry only for people 21 and older who are not otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms, other states issue permits for people as young as 18. And at least one of them, Maine, will even issue permits to 18-year-olds from other states.

Some members of the committee asked Wednesday whether that would enable an 18-year-old from Kansas, or a similar person from any other state who enrolls in school in Kansas, to obtain a Maine permit and legally carry concealed weapons in Kansas.

Kansas Assistant Attorney General C.W. Klebe said that issue isn’t clear, because in 2015 Kansas lawmakers passed what gun-rights advocates call a “constitutional carry” law that says concealed-carry permits are not required for people who are otherwise qualified to have firearms. At the same time, it also repealed a 2013 law that said Kansas would recognize valid concealed-carry permits from other states.

Kansas still issues permits, mainly for the benefit of Kansans who want to carry their weapons in other states that require permits. But it does not require anyone who is legally qualified to own a firearm to have a permit here.

Strictly speaking, Klebe said, a person under 21 who carries a concealed handgun in Kansas would be violating a criminal statute, even if that person has a valid permit from another state.

But he added: “We aren’t sure that was an intentional change, based on the fact that for several years at least, we allowed all individuals to carry if they had a license.”

So now, the Attorney General’s office is asking for legislation to clarify the point. It has introduced a bill that would re-establish reciprocity with other states that have concealed-carry laws. Klebe said that’s mainly because many other states only extend reciprocity to other states that have specific reciprocity laws on their books.

The bill also specifies that Kansas will recognize the nonresident permits issued by other states, as long as that nonresident is not from Kansas, which means a teenager from Kansas could not apply for a Maine concealed-carry permit and be allowed to carry concealed weapons here.

But the bill is silent on the question of whether under-21 residents of any other state who have such permits would be allowed to carry concealed weapons here.

Klebe said the main purpose of the bill is to make sure Kansans who have concealed carry permits are able to carry their weapons in as many other states as possible.

“The intent of the attorney general in bringing this is, if you are licensed by another jurisdiction, age wasn’t a consideration,” he said. “Those are the policy matters that this committee starts and the Legislature as a whole takes on.”

Some members of the committee, including Rep. John Wilson, D-Lawrence, expressed concern that out-of-state students as young as 18, 19 or 20 might be allowed to have concealed weapons, if a new law is allowed to take effect July 1 requiring campuses to allow concealed carry.

“I do think there’s a need to clarify that,” Wilson said.

But others, including Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita, appeared less concerned.

“If you’re 18, you have to register for the draft. If you’re 18 with military training, you can use a firearm. If you’re 18, you can die for your country. Wouldn’t it just be an easier fix to lower the concealed-carry age to 18?” he asked.

Klebe said the attorney general’s office is not taking a position on the question of age limits, but he said the Legislature should address the question one way or another as it considers whether to reinstate a reciprocity law with other states.

Committee chairman John Barker, R-Abilene, had indicated last week he planned to vote on at least one of two bills Wednesday that would roll back the upcoming requirement that concealed-carry be allowed on public campuses and most municipal buildings.

After Wednesday’s meeting, he did not indicate why he decided not to work those bills, but he suggested that some committee members may still be working on amendments.