Kansas Constitutional Carry Passes House

Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady presents bill on House floor. Photo courtesy of Heath Kohl.

By John Celock

Following a lengthy debate, the Kansas House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday that will allow permit less carry of guns in the state.

The House passed the constitutional carry bill 85-39 which will allow people to concealed carry a gun in the state’s limits without a permit. Supporters – led by House Majority Caucus Chairman Travis Couture-Lovelady (R-Palco) – argue the bill will implement the constitutional rights to bear arms in the state. Opponents said the bill would have people carrying guns without taking safety classes. The debate featured several unsuccessful attempts by Democrats to implement new gun safety measures.

“This is about freedom and liberty, it is about trusting Kansans,” Couture-Lovelady said while carrying the bill on the House floor. “It allows to carry concealed without a government permission slip. It’s about asking permission from their government if they want to exercise a constitutional right. Carrying a gun is a lifestyle. Government should trust its citizens.”

While the bill has previously passed the state Senate, amendments from the House Federal and State Affairs Committee will require the bill to return to the Senate for final approval before it can head to Gov. Sam Brownback (R).

The bill has been a top measure pursued this year by the Kansas State Rifle Association and the National Rifle Association. Couture-Lovelady, the House’s leading advocate on Second Amendment issues, told lawmakers that the bill would bring Kansas in line with other states that do not have permits for concealed carry. Among those are Arizona, which adopted a similar bill recently and Vermont which has never had a permit law in place.

Couture-Lovelady said that the bill would not completely eliminate permits. He said Kansas residents can still obtain a permit for many reasons including being able to carry a gun into another state where a permit is required or to streamline the background check process to buy a gun. The permit process requires a background check and allows skipping a background check while purchasing the gun.

“This levels the playing field. This does not change the current licensing system. There are many reasons to keep the permits,” Couture-Lovelady said. “Constitutional carry is the next step as Americans regain an infringed right to keep and bear arms.”

Democrats stressed the need for the gun safety classes that come under obtaining a permit. Rep. Annie Tietze (D-Topeka) expressed concerns that under the bill people would be able to buy a gun without holding a gun before.

Assistant House Minority Leader Louis Ruiz (D-Kansas City) said that he was concerned that the bill would not be in the best interests of all Kansas residents. He said that while it might work in a rural community in Couture-Lovelady’s district, he said it would not work in the urban parts of the state.

“We’ll have gun fights. We’ll have gang bangers holding guns,” Ruiz said. “We won’t check on them. When we drive down the street, we won’t know who has what,”

Ruiz questioned Couture-Lovelady on the Republican’s own gun background and whether or not he had taken hunter safety. Couture-Lovelady said he has taken the classes but noted they reinforced what he already learned, but said there is value in them for someone who had not previously learned the material.

“I was already trained well by my grandpa,” he said.

Democrats offered a series of amendments designed to promote the gun safety classes.

Rep. Pam Curtis (D-Kansas City) unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have lowered the concealed carry permit fee from $100 to $50 and renewals from $25 to $10. She said the lower cost would promote obtaining the permits.

House Democratic Agenda Chairman Brandon Whipple (D-Wichita) said that while he had learned how to shoot from his grandfather as well, he found benefits to the class and urged passage of Curtis’ amendment.

“I rise in support of this amendment. I grew up with guns. I have an A rating from NRA. I have a membership to my local gun club and I have a concealed carry permit,” Whipple said. “The point is not get a concealed carry, but it encourages people to get that training. Like the carrier my grandfather taught me how to shoot. I consider myself a good shot. But in that class I learned the legalities of self defense.”

Couture-Lovelady said that while he appreciated the intent of Curtis’ amendment he believed the issue of lowering the costs deserved more in-depth study than could be provided on the House floor. He said he would want information from the state attorney general’s office on the impact of the reduced fees on paying for the permit process. He encouraged Curtis to offer the proposal in a bill in the future in order to promote that study.

Curtis’ amendment failed on a vote of 50-75.

House Democratic Policy Chairman John Wilson (D-Lawrence), who cited his support of the Second Amendment, tried to push a bill to allow for an income tax deduction for the cost of a concealed carry permit, but the amendment was ruled not germane by the House Rules Committee. Wilson told lawmakers that he plans to reintroduce the amendment when the House takes up a tax bill later this session. He also announced plans to introduce amendments for a tax deduction for gun safety devices and make gun safety devices exempt from sales taxes.

Wilson also offered an amendment for residents to have a proof of gun safety training on them. Couture-Lovelady argued that the Wilson amendment would “undercut the entire point of the bill.” Wilson said it would allow those who conceal carry a gun to have taken a safety class before they used it.

“I don’t want people to use their guns for the first time in an Applebee’s or in line at Dillon’s without a gun safety course,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s amendment failed 22-86.

Rep. Barbara Ballard (D-Lawrence), who noted that her father was a hunter, offered an amendment that would allow for the implementation of gun retraining order, which she said would keep guns away from stalkers, those accused of domestic violence or those who are thought to be considering suicide. The amendment is similar to a bill offered earlier this year by Rep. Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills), which has been pending in the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee. Missouri Rep. Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) offered the same bill in her state at the same time Bollier introduced the bill in Kansas.

Bollier spoke in the favor of the amendment, saying that it would help domestic violence victims and that the military supports the proposal to help curb suicides. The bill received opposition from those who said it could cause the government to seize guns.

“As noble as the intent is, the problem I have is the word seize,” Rep. Michael Houser (R-Columbus) said. “The government coming in and seizing your firearms. All it would take is an anonymous phone call.”

Ballard’s amendment failed 40-83.

Several opponents said that they are not receiving comments from those in their districts to back the constitutional carry bill.

Couture-Lovelady said the bill will provide Kansans with their rights on guns and will not cause an increase in shootings or crime.

“Kansans already have two documents granting them the right to conceal carry, the Constitution of United States and the Kansas Constitution, that should be all they need,” he said.