Bill to lower concealed carry age advances in Kansas House

TOPEKA — Kansas House members advanced a bill Wednesday that would lower the legal age to carry concealed firearms in Kansas from 21 to 18 for those who complete a background check and undergo safety training.

Eighteen, 19-, and 20-year-old Kansans can already carry firearms in the open in Kansas. Proponents of lowering the age for concealed carry said that those under 21 can serve in the military and are eligible to vote. Opponents countered that those under 21 are less mature and more prone to risk-taking

If passed, the bill would significantly increase the number of university and college students in Kansas eligible to carry concealed firearms on campus. But the legislation won’t change current laws that allow high schools to prohibit guns on school grounds, according to the Kansas Association of School Boards and the Kansas National Education Association, which opposes the bill.

Rep. Stephen Owens, a Hesston Republican, led the move on the House floor and said his interest stems in part from someone attempting to abduct his college-age daughter at a Wichita gas station last year. As a 20-year-old, she wasn’t eligible to carry a concealed gun.

“It’s that simple: Either they are adults at 18, or they are not, and we need to plan accordingly,” Owens told The Associated Press. “They can serve in our military, they can vote, they can do various other things as adults. They should have the right to protect themselves.”

The House rejected amendments from Democrats that included banning concealed weapons in the Statehouse and allowing universities to decide whether to allow concealed carry on campuses.

Rep. Barbara Ballard, a Lawrence Democrat and administrator at the University of Kansas, said many of her constituents are concerned about the proposal.

“I would like for us not to have concealed carry on our campus so that faculty would feel comfortable not worrying about what might happen if they give someone a bad grade or you get in a disagreement with a student, or they don’t want to be hired by us because they see because we put on our website — and we have to — that we are a concealed carry campus,” Ballard said.

Rep. Susan Estes, a Wichita Republican, said she was harassed by a stalker when she was a college student, leading her to quit her job and her parents to move homes.

“There’s a sad truth that women are targets, especially as we’re going from our cars into our buildings,” Estes said.

Eleven states allow those who are 18 to carry a concealed firearm, according to the United States Concealed Carry Association, one of the largest firearm-owner groups in the country.

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee held a hearing on the bill, but the chairman opted not to hold a vote. State Rep. Stephen Owens, a Hesston Republican, then offered it as an amendment to another bill on the floor.

The bill also would expand the state’s recognition of concealed carry permits for out-of-state visitors who carry their own state’s permits.

The bill needs a final vote before it goes to the Senate for consideration.


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