By Bryan Lowry
Kansans will be able to carry a concealed weapon without training under a bill signed by Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday.
SB 45, which will go into effect July 1, will make Kansas the sixth state in the nation to allow "constitutional carry." It will allow Kansans, 21 or older, to carry concealed firearms regardless of whether they've obtained a permit as is required under current law.
Training still will be required for anyone who wants to carry a concealed gun in the 36 states that accept Kansas permits.
Brownback made a point of touting the importance of training, explaining that his youngest son took a hunter safety course this past week.
"It was an excellent course. He got a lot out of it. I got a lot out of it. And I want to urge people to take advantage of that," said Brownback, who was flanked by Republican lawmakers and representatives from the National Rifle Association and Kansas State Rifle Association.
Asked why he did not think training should be required if it is valuable, Brownback said carrying a gun is a constitutional right.
"We're saying that if you want to do that in this state, then you don't have to get the permission slip from the government," Brownback said. "It is a constitutional right and we're removing a barrier to that right."
Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, said she has concerns about safety, noting that members of the law enforcement community had raised concerns about the lack of training.
"That's a major responsibility to carry a gun, whether it's concealed or not. And it's scary," Faust-Goudeau said. "I predict from the legislation that -- and it's going to go quick, it's going to be July 1 -- we're going to see some accidents, possibly deaths."
Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, R-Palco, said that Kansas had not had significant problems with public safety since it adopted concealed carry in 2006 and predicted that this expansion would have little impact.
"We haven't had any of the wild West shootouts. We haven't had any of the blood running in the streets that folks feared were going to happen," Couture-Lovelady said, adding that he did not attribute that to the training requirement.
"I think training is an ongoing personal responsibility. It's not something the government can mandate. It's something where if you want to continue to be efficient in firearms you have to go to the range, you have to educate yourself on the proper way of carrying," he said. "It's not a 'one size fits all' when you talk about the lifestyle of carrying a gun."
About 87,000 people hold concealed carry permits in Kansas, according to the attorney general's office. More than 17,000 of them are in Sedgwick County.
One of the most vocal critics of the legislation, Bill Warren, holds a concealed carry permit. He has expressed concern about the safety impact on his Wichita movie theaters if people who have not gone through training bring in guns.
He said he probably will have to prohibit guns in his theaters. "My No. 1 priority is the safety of our customers, and after we talk to our security we will make a decision before it's enacted," Warren said Thursday.
"I think it makes things for the general population less safe," said Warren, who donated and hosted events for Brownback's gubernatorial campaign.
Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, who was present last May when Brownback officially announced his reelection campaign, praised the governor as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.
Stoneking said the signing of the bill was the culmination of a 10-year plan by the Association. She said the inclusion of the training requirement in 2006's concealed carry bill was "political horse trading" and said it was a compromise necessary to pass the legislation at that time.
Looking ahead, she said she wants to see one more major change before retiring: lowering the age to carry a concealed weapon to 18.
"18-year-olds are allowed to open carrym and they go to war and put their lives on the line to protect this country," Stoneking said. "I believe we can lower the age to 18 at some point in the future. I think after everybody sees that there are not going to be any of the dire predictions coming true, and they relax a little bit, then we can talk about that."
(c)2015 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.)