Editorial: Is a common-sense compromise possible on concealed carry?

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

Kansas has not gone to hell in a hand basket since 2015 — at least not for reasons related to guns.

It was in 2015 when the state passed a law that you no longer had to get a state permit to carry a concealed firearm. Instead, Kansas adopted the philosophy of “constitutional carry,” meaning that carrying a concealed firearm was an actual right that government couldn’t regulate.

It is a “right” that the U.S. Supreme Court has never affirmed. While the Supreme Court has said Americans have a right to possess weapons for self-defense, it has stopped short of saying that right extends to the idea of hiding a weapon on your body. In fact, there is still a legal question of whether the right allows a person to carry a weapon in public spaces at all, openly or concealed.

Just last month the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Hawaii law that largely bans private citizens from carrying firearms in public spaces. “There is no right to carry arms openly in public; nor is any such right within the scope of the Second Amendment,” the majority wrote in the 7-4 decision by the court. In case you were wondering, the majority opinion was written by a Republican-appointed judge.

So, while Americans do have a right to own guns for self-defense, this idea that they can carry them without restriction is much more of an idea than a recognized right, at the moment.

That’s worth remembering as Second Amendment advocates try to expand that “right” in Kansas. Supporters are trying to expand that right currently with a bill that would enable people 18 to 20 years of age to carry concealed weapons in public. However, interestingly, those 18- to 20-year-olds would earn that right only after completing a firearm-safety course, a background check and paying a fee to the state. Kansans 21 and older don’t have to do any of those things to earn their right to carry concealed.

Earn your right? That sounds odd, doesn’t it? It makes it sound like it maybe isn’t a right at all, but rather a privilege similar to earning a driver’s license. It is a little surprising that Second Amendment advocates ever agreed to that language. After all, it is hard to find the mention of 18 years of age in the text of the Second Amendment.

Gov. Laura Kelly has vetoed the bill. That’s mostly good, but could be a little better. It is worth remembering what was said in the beginning — Kansas has not gone to hell since loosening the concealed carry law. It likely wouldn’t do so either if the age for concealed carry were lowered to 18.

But it also is worth remembering that common sense says firearm-safety training is good, if people indeed intend to carry a gun. Kelly should have explored a compromise that drives that point home. If you want to lower the age for concealed carry to 18, then let’s add back in the requirement that existed prior to 2015 that anyone in Kansas — regardless of age — be required to go through a firearm-safety class before being allowed to carry a concealed weapon.

The bill likely will be addressed in the veto session of the Kansas Legislature. The idea of reinstating firearm safety training for anyone who wants to carry a concealed weapon — it would be a good opportunity for us to practice our skills in compromise.

But more so, it would be a great opportunity to practice something else: common sense.

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