Concealed-carry changes

Legislators should take the time to review and explain any expansion of state laws governing concealed firearms.

Concealed carry in Kansas isn’t going away. That much is certain. About 40,000 Kansans have been licensed by the state to carry a concealed firearm on their person.

Opponents of the Kansas law that began six years ago should ponder that for a moment. A group roughly as large as the population of Salina has been licensed to carry hidden weapons, yet terrible acts of violence or even gun-related accidents by concealed-carry holders, aren’t widespread. Granted, you also don’t hear much about concealed-carry holders thwarting crime or using a concealed weapon to defend themselves.

Now, however, the concealed-carry program is entering interesting new territory, and it would be wise for lawmakers to pause and complete a thorough review before expanding the program.

Several lawmakers have been pushing to allow concealed-carry permit holders to bring their weapons into public buildings, such as university classrooms, city halls and other such structures if those buildings do not have devices like metal detectors designed to detect illegal weapons.

The Kansas Board of Regents, the League of Kansas Municipalities and others have expressed concerns about the proposal. Lawmakers owe it to their partners in local government to take those concerns seriously. If state lawmakers believe concealed carry in those locations is vital, then their first step should be public education to convince citizens that such a law really will not diminish their safety or cause other problems.

The state’s concealed-carry law has been changed several times by lawmakers, often for the worse. Several legislators have expressed surprise about the changes made to the law, and some changes have even caught the Kansas Attorney General’s Office unaware. Some examples include:

• Applicants are no longer required to take a shooting test when renewing their license. In addition, a provision allowing the state to deny a renewal based on evidence a person has a physical infirmity that makes it impossible to safely handle a weapon was removed. Lawmakers have created a situation where applicants can renew their licenses for the next 40 or 50 years without ever demonstrating they still can safely handle a weapon.

• Permit holders no longer are required to submit to a Breathalyzer test when a police officer suspects the individual is under the influence of alcohol. Previously, permit holders who denied such a request automatically had their licenses suspended for three years. Now, that’s no longer the case. It was an irresponsible change that makes the of job law enforcement more difficult.

• Several offenses that prohibited a person from receiving a concealed-carry license have been removed, including: people with two misdemeanor DUI convictions in the past five years, people with misdemeanor drug convictions, people convicted of carrying under the influence in another state and individuals who have been declared in contempt of court for child support proceedings.

If lawmakers want to expand the state’s concealed-carry law, it seems they first should do a better job of explaining the rationale of some of the changes they’ve already made.