Bill to drop concealed carry age won’t get committee vote

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Kansas state Rep. Stephen Owens, R-Hesston, listens during a House committee meeting at the Statehouse, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Topeka, Kan. Owens says he plans to propose lowering the age at which people can carry concealed weapons to 18 from 21 when the House debates another gun measure. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. — A bill to lower the legal age to carry concealed firearms in Kansas from 21 to 18 has stalled in a House committee, but a supporter plans to offer the proposal for consideration on the House floor.

Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican who leads the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, said he is unlikely to hold a committee vote on the bill, declining to say why or whether he supports the bill.

Bills that don’t get committee approval typically fail. But Rep. Stephen Owens, a Hesston Republican, said he’d bring it up as an amendment to another gun bill that will get a floor debate.

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. Opponents say those under 21 are less mature and more prone to risk-taking.

The bill would require permit holders to complete a background check and undergo gun safety training, which is currently required for those 21 and older seeking a permit.

Another bill headed for a House floor vote would expand Kansas’ recognition of other states’ concealed carry permits, and Owens said he would offer an amendment to add the provision to lower the concealed carry age.

The Kansas Association of School Boards and the Kansas National Education Association say the bill wouldn’t change current laws that allow high schools to prohibit guns on school grounds. But the bill would significantly increase the number of university students eligible to carry concealed on campus.

Kansas law changed in 2017 to allow concealed carry on college campuses for those 21 and older.

Some professors and students worry that first-year students might not be responsible enough to carry concealed weapons in campus facilities such as dorms.

“When you’re 18 years old, you’re learning how to get along with people. You’re meeting people with different ideas and perspectives that you may not have grown up around,” said Hollie Hall, a University of Kansas graduate student.

Jaron Caffrey, a Washburn University senior and a member of a Republican student group, said he has met at least two older adult students who carry concealed firearms on campus. He said students should have the option to protect themselves on campus with a concealed weapon.ADVERTISEMENT

“They might be living on their own entirely, they moved to a city like Topeka where they might be from a small town or just from completely far away,” Caffrey said. “It’s up to them, for their own security side of the issue, for them to be able to protect themselves if they feel a need to.”

Sanjay Mishra, an associate business professor at KU who leads the university senate, said he doesn’t know any students who carry a concealed firearm, but worries the risk of a shooting will increase if most students are allowed to carry a concealed weapon on campus.

“If I have a class of 600, I don’t understand the 600. And who knows if one person in the corner or in the front is offended by what I said — and deeply offended by what I said,” Mishra said, “and they decide to take matters into their hands.”

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