The House gave approval to a controversial bill Wednesday authorizing people over 21 years of age to carry concealed any type of firearm without obtaining weapons training or securing a state license.
It's been legal for nine years to carry concealed in Kansas with a permit. About 90,000 people have obtained that license after undergoing a background check, completing a safety program and paying a fee. State law also allows open carry of firearms.
Repeal of Kansas' permit mandate for conceal-carry was framed as a reflection of the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the 2010 amendment added to the Kansas Constitution.
Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, a Palco Republican and the House's chief advocate of Senate Bill 45, referred to the existing training requirement tied to acquisition of conceal-carry licenses in Kansas as a waste of time.
"It's simply a feel-good measure," Couture-Lovelady said. "This bill is about freedom and liberty. No more tests. No more fees. No license. Carrying guns is a lifestyle and government should trust its citizens."
The House adopted the bill 85-39, while the Senate previously approved the measure 31-7. Any differences would have to be ironed out before sent to Gov. Sam Brownback.
Rep. Louis Ruiz, D-Kansas City, said demise of the stipulation that conceal-carry licensees complete a basic eight-hour training class would be a tragic mistake. People without demonstrated skill with a firearm will be capable of hiding loaded weapons when they venture into public and private locations, he said.
"We're coming into the New West," he said. "We'll have gun fights."
The legislation would retain the permit system in Kansas to preserve the opportunity of state residents to gain conceal-carry reciprocity privileges in other states. The legislation would not extend the privilege of carrying a concealed firearm to people prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal or state law.
The House rejected a pair of amentments.
House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, said he was disappointed with the House's rejection of a third amendment authorizing court orders for seizure of guns from people determined to be at risk of suicide, domestic violence or stalking.
"We let politics get in the way," Burroughs said. "We're getting caught up in extremism here."
However, Rep. Michael Houser, R-Columbus, said the amendment sought by Ballard was ill-conceived because it could result in law enforcement raids of residences based on the presumption a person might be a danger to himself or others.
Dudley Brown, president of the National Association of Gun Rights, said the organization made telephone calls and reached out by email, direct mail and social media to urge 80,000 Kansans to lobby legislators on behalf of the bill.
"There are no permission slips or training requirements for the First Amendment and there shouldn't be for the Second Amendment either," Brown said.