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TOPEKA (KSNT) — Kansas is moving toward removing what some gun rights advocates see as its last major restriction on firearms, with the state Senate giving first-round approval Wednesday to a bill that would end a requirement for permits to carry concealed weapons.
The Republican-dominated Senate’s voice vote advanced the measure to another, final vote Thursday, when the measure was expected to pass. Twenty-six of its 40 members are sponsoring the bill, led by Majority Leader Terry Bruce.
“I just think a lot of people see it and at first glance they have an emotional reaction to it, without looking in to the details,” Sen. Jake LaTurner, (R) Pittsburg said.
The measure would go next to the House. Both chambers have strong gun rights majorities, and GOP Gov. Sam Brownback has signed every major piece of gun rights legislation since he took office in January 2011.
Senator Tom Hawks, a Democrat from Manhattan concern with the bill stems from a recent report from the Kansas Attorney General’s Office that say 233 people either were not allowed permits, lost their permits, or were rejected.
“That means even though we have a lot of concealed carriers in the state there are some of them that are not fit to carry,” Hawk said.
“I will have remorse because I didn’t make a good enough argument to try and convince people that the system we have now does I think make a much better effort to protecting the public because there is required training.”
All states allow some form of concealed carry, but the National Rifle Association says Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming don’t require a permit, while Montana allows concealed carry without a permit outside cities, which is most of the state.
“Is it the last restriction?” Bruce, a Nickerson Republican, said of the permit requirement. “It’s the last major obstacle, I think.”
Supporters of the Kansas bill note that state law already allows the open carrying of firearms without a permit. A state concealed carry permit costs $132.50 and requires eight hours of training.
“The citizens of this state have a right to defend themselves without going through the permit process,” said Sen. Jake LaTurner, a Pittsburg Republican, another sponsor of the measure
The bill would apply to anyone 21 or older who can legally carry a gun. Critics contend the current permit requirement ensures that people who carry concealed have some firearms training.
“That’s my big deal,” said Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat who opposes the bill. “I just think that carrying without that training, maybe down the road, has some dangerous side effects.”
Kansas did not enact a concealed carry law until 2006, when legislators overrode a veto by then-Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. The state started issuing permits in 2007 and has granted more than 90,000.
A string of high-profile political victories for gun rights advocates followed. In 2010, voters approved a constitutional amendment to emphasize that gun ownership is an individual right. Kansas last year enacted an NRA-backed law prohibiting local restrictions on gun sales and ownership. A 2013 law declares that the federal government has no authority to regulate firearms manufactured, sold and kept in Kansas.
“It is certainly a different mindset,” said Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association. “A much more pleasant one.”
But Faust-Goudeau said: “We’re going back to the wild, wild West.”