Kansas appears on the verge of becoming among the most welcoming states to people who want to pack heat.
A bill promising Kansans the ability to carry concealed firearms — without taking safety training or weathering the background checks required in most of the country — won initial approval in the state Senate on Wednesday.
The change, expected to pass Thursday and then move to the House, would make Kansas a “constitutional carry” state. That would mean citizens would not need a permit to carry a hidden gun. The bill would maintain the current permit process for people who want to use their permits in 36 other states.
It would group Kansas with other states with similarly open rules for tucking firearms in purses and waistbands, including Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming. Montana requires no permit outside city limits.
“Second Amendment rights are very important to the people of Kansas,” said Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, a Hutchinson Republican.
He downplayed its impact in a state where many residents already are authorized to carry concealed weapons.
“When you put everything in perspective, the end result may end up really being a non-event,” he said. “I don’t think a lot will change when we pass it.”
Approached in the Capitol earlier in the day, Gov. Sam Brownback said he had not yet read the bill and could not say if he would support it.
Bill Warren, a Wichita business owner and Republican donor, expressed concerns earlier in the week about the impact the bill could have on his movie theaters. Warren said he had been told his insurance rates would increase if he allowed people who had not received training to conceal and carry in his theaters.
Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat, placed a copy of Warren’s interview with The Wichita Eagle on each senator’s desk.
Sen. Jacob LaTurner, a Republican from Pittsburg, tried to alleviate those concerns. He said that, according to the Kansas Insurance Department, other states with similarly loose regulations have not seen noticeable insurance rate increases.
Private businesses would have the right to require that only people with permits could conceal and carry within their premises, he said.
He also contended that Kansans should have the right to protect themselves with a firearm without getting a permit.
“We need to trust the people of Kansas,” LaTurner said. “I don’t think we can ever go wrong if we do that.”
Sen. Tom Hawk, a Manhattan Democrat, said that dumping the training requirement posed a safety risk. Faust-Goudeau had similar concerns.
“I think carrying without that training may, down the road, have some dangerous side effects,” she said.
LaTurner countered that the state allows people to carry guns openly without requiring a permit. He also said training would still be available for people who think they need it.