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Kansas lawmakers vote to let 18-year-olds have concealed weapons

The House debates gun legislation on Thursday.
The House debates gun legislation on Thursday. The Wichita Eagle

People as young as 18 could carry concealed weapons under a bill advanced in the Kansas House on Thursday.

Currently, people must be 21 or older to have a concealed weapon.

Lawmakers rejected allowing Wichita State University and other public universities to prohibit concealed weapons. Instead, they voted to require permits for anyone taking guns onto campuses.

The House voted 85-35 to advance House Bill 2042. A final vote in the chamber could come Friday; the bill then would advance to the Senate.

The bill also requires people between 18 and 21 who want to have a concealed weapon to obtain a permit, unlike those above 21.

“Kansans of this age are adults. They can serve in the military and give their lives for our freedom. They should be trusted to carry a firearm for self-defense,” said Moriah Day, chairman of the Kansas State Rifle Association PAC.

Opponents of the measure voiced concern that people that age are not mature enough to handle a concealed weapon.

“The simple fact is that folks who are in that age group, in my judgment, are not old enough to be drinking liquor, they’re not old enough to be drinking beer, and probably should not be carrying firearms,” said Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita.

The legislation also requires Kansas to recognize the concealed carry permits of other states.

Seven states require individuals to be 18 to have concealed weapons, while others have no age requirement, according to Concealed Nation, an online news site about concealed weapons.

“Consistency is important,” said Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, noting the states that allow 18-year-olds to carry.

An amendment to again give public universities and colleges the ability to prohibit concealed weapons failed 53-69. Concealed weapons have been allowed on campuses since an exemption expired last summer.

Another effort to require individuals who carry concealed weapons on campuses to have a permit and undergo training passed, however.

“I cannot see where the harm is in training,” Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, said.

Rep. Eric Smith, R-Burlington, said he encourages training but had a problem mandating training to exercise a constitutional right. Rep. Ken Corbet, R-Topeka, questioned the need to treat universities differently.

“There are people there who I don’t think need to have the restrictions put on them. Treat them like you treat everybody else in the state,” Corbet said.

Lawmakers tried unsuccessfully last year to block campus carry. Surveys of campuses have shown most students and staff want to prohibit concealed weapons.

A 2015 survey conducted for the Kansas Board of Regents found that 55 percent of students wanted the law changed to not allow guns on campus, while 31 percent wanted to keep it in place.

The Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act, which took effect July 1, allows concealed handguns to be carried on more than 30 two-year and four-year colleges in the state. Here's what you need to know.

Jonathan Shorman: 785-296-3006, @jonshorman