Kansas governor vetoes bill to lower concealed carry age
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed a bill Friday that would have allowed people as young as 18 to carry concealed weapons, after legislators approved the bill by margins that weren’t large enough to override a veto.
The legislation would have created a provisional license for those 18 to 21, issued by the state attorney general. Permit holders would have had to complete a background check and undergo gun safety training, which is currently required for those 21 and older seeking a permit.
The bill would have significantly increased the number of students eligible to carry concealed weapons on university campuses which, until 2017, were exempt from a 2013 law allowing them in public buildings. But education groups such as the Kansas Association of School Boards say the measure wouldn’t have changed current laws that allow high schools to prohibit guns on school grounds.
“Throughout my time in public office, I have been a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and of Kansans’ right to own firearms,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “But we can respect and defend the rights of Kansas gun owners while also taking effective steps to keep our children and families safe. Legislation that allows more guns on campus is neither safe nor effective, and it will drive prospective students away from our schools.”
The bill gained the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto in the Senate in a vote this month, but supporters were four votes short of the required supermajority in the House after five Republicans voted against the bill.
State Rep. Charles Smith, a Pittsburg Republican who voted against the proposal, told The Associated Press that there’s “no hurry” for 18, 19-, and 20-year-olds to carry a concealed firearm.
“When you’re 18 years old, 19, you do silly stuff. And gosh, I’d hate for some kid to make a mistake and be in jail for 10 years, or the rest of their life,” Smith said.
Eleven states allow those who are 18 to carry a concealed firearm, according to the United States Concealed Carry Association, one of the largest firearm-owner groups in the country.
Supporters say 18-year-old Kansans can already carry firearms in the open and those as young as 18 are allowed to serve in the military. Some Republican legislators say the bill would allow young people to protect themselves from threats.
Democratic lawmakers argued that those under 21 are less mature and more prone to risk-taking. Opponents have also said that federal law requires someone to be at least 21 to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer.
“We are allowing 18 year olds who are high school seniors to have guns concealed at parties, where there may or may not be alcohol,” Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, a Lenexa Democrat, said in a legislative debate this month.
In March, the measure was amended into legislation to expand Kansas’ recognition of other states’ concealed carry permits after another bill to lower the legal age to carry concealed firearms in Kansas from 21 to 18 stalled in a House committee.
Supporters of the reciprocity measure include Kansas Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who said that the bill would have helped the state maintain reciprocity agreements with other states so that Kansans can carry concealed firearms elsewhere.
Schmidt, who launched his campaign for governor last month, didn’t take an official stance on the measure to allow those 18 to 21 to carry concealed firearms when he testified to lawmakers in support of the reciprocity measure. But after Kelly’s veto on Friday, he said the concealed carry measure promoted firearms safety by “encouraging 18- to 20-year-olds, who lawfully may carry openly under current law, to obtain training and a permit to carry concealed.”
“I hope the Legislature will override this ill-advised veto when it returns in May,” Schmidt said of the bill.
This month, the bill was amended by Kansas legislators to allow people who have been convicted of some crimes that include aggravated battery and misdemeanor domestic battery to possess firearms if those records are expunged.
Andy Tsubasa Field is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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