Starting on July 1, residents of Kansas will be able to carry concealed weapons without having to actually obtain a firearms permit.
A new bill signed into law on Thursday by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) allows Kansans over the age of 21 to carry concealed weapons without any permit or training requirements, “as long as that individual is not prohibited from possessing a firearm under either federal or state law.”
Brownback, known for his pro-gun stance, claims the new law will protect the rights of gun owners, though it remains unclear who or what they need protection from. “Responsible gun ownership – for protection and sport – is a right inherent in our Constitution. It is a right that Kansans hold dear and have repeatedly and overwhelmingly reaffirmed a commitment to protecting,” the governor said in a statement on Facebook posted alongside a photo of him signing the bill.
Based on the comments on Brownback’s Facebook page, it is clear that many Kansans aren’t happy with the governor’s actions.
Everytown for Gun Safety also took to Facebook to express their disapproval of the law. “This bill will let people carry hidden, loaded guns in public with no training whatsoever, and with no permit required,” the statement read. “It’s irresponsible legislation that puts all Kansans in danger.”
Not surprisingly, the new measure passed with strong support from both chambers of the Republican-controlled Kansas legislature. One Republican state legislator, Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, referred to gun safety training as a “personal responsibility” and “not something the government can mandate.” Brownback echoed that sentiment, saying, “Kansans shouldn’t need a permission slip to fulfill their constitutional right.”
In contrast to these claims, there is no constitutional “right” to carry a loaded, concealed firearm in public. The Supreme Court was clear on this issue in their decision in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller. “The Second Amendment right is not unlimited,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the Court’s most conservative justices. “It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues of arms.”
Permit requirements are typically separate from laws that govern who can buy and possess guns in the state. In Kansas, as in most states, the permitting requirement actually makes it harder or those with criminal backgrounds to be the ones toting the guns. While some crimes — violent felonies — bar individuals from buying or possessing a gun in the first place, a larger list of crimes bars individuals from carrying those guns outside their homes. What’s more, those who seek a permit are required to undergo firearms training. And permits must be re-issued every few years, allowing the state an opportunity to check for new crimes committed after an individual initially purchased a gun. Ending the permit requirement will therefore eliminate both firearms training and the more probing, follow-up background checks that now exist.
At least five other states (and most of Montana) have passed similar laws — based on model legislation from the National Rifle Association — allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permit, but all 50 states have passed laws allowing citizens to carry firearms in public.
Supporters of these so-called “constitutional carry laws”, including pro-gun groups like the Crime Prevention Research Center, say the rise of concealed carry laws in states has resulted in a decline in violent crime. But this claim ignores the very important fact that violent crime has been dropping nationwide, regardless of whether the states have concealed carry laws or not.
In fact, we know very little about the impact of such laws, in large part because the National Rifle Association has successfully lobbied Republicans in Congress to ban federal funding for research on gun violence. With a lack of domestic research, many point to international data as a guide. In Japan, for example, where almost all forms of gun ownership are illegal, there are single-digit shooting deaths in the country each year. Even in countries where gun ownership is more common than in Japan — like Australia, Canada, and the U.K. — rates of gun violence are still far lower than those in the U.S. because of those countries’ stricter gun laws.
What’s more, a study released by Stanford last year took a new look at the research and found clear links between allowing weapons without a permit and some types of violence. It was difficult to tie right-to-carry laws to violent crime, but researchers did find an estimated 8 percent increase in aggravated assault cases — and this is likely an underestimate, according to the researchers. “The totality of the evidence based on educated judgments about the best statistical models suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with substantially higher rates of aggravated assault, rape, robbery and murder,” said the researchers, who described the analysis of such laws as a “vexing task.”
Meanwhile, back in Kansas, Brownback and legislators must fill a massive revenue shortfall — wrought by his tax cuts for the wealthy — no later than June. Though this would seem like a priority, the recently re-elected governor has instead spent the year focusing on his partisan priorities, including new abortion restrictions and the repeal of LGBT non-discrimination protections.