Confusion over the article, “Sheriff shares about guns, drugs and human trafficking,” arose Wednesday morning when some readers noted that the age noted in the article was incorrect. Referring to the Personal and Family Protection Act, lawfully eligible persons over the age of 21, not 18, may carry a concealed weapon in Kansas, and after July 1 of this year that will extend to colleges and universities. These institutions have been exempted as the Kansas Board of Regents has endeavored to formulate policies and practices that will offer students the best experience possible under the law.
With so many changes to gun laws, both federally and within the state in the past few years, it’s easy to get confused.
Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir was responding to questions by members of the League of Women Voters, Great Bend chapter, at their monthly meeting Monday. During those questions, members referred to students over the age of 18 being allowed to carry guns on campus, and whether that would extend to high school seniors over the age of 18 at local high schools. The question stumped both the sheriff and this reporter. In an effort to clarify the recent and upcoming changes in these Kansas gun laws, we did some more in-depth reporting.
First, some of the basics that you may or may not know, but they are worth reviewing. Kansas law does not impose restriction on sales of firearms to minors, and there is no minimum age to possess a firearm, with some restrictions. This, according to an article by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. According to the 2015 Kansas Senate Bill, “it is not legal for anyone under 21 years of age to carry any pistol, revolver, or other firearm concealed on one’s person, except when on such person’s land or in such person’s abode or fixed place of business. “
To carry concealed, no permits or licensing are required in Kansas, though training classes are still available and permits are still sought. There are 36 states that accept Kansas permits, so for gun owners who travel out of the state and wish to conceal and carry their weapon during their travel, this is a wise move. Also, under some circumstances, employers may require permits for concealed carry for employees using company property and/or conduction company business. To know for sure, consult your employer’s policy on weapons in the workplace. Many Kansans still go through the training because they want to be as responsible as possible about their decision to carry and use a gun.
What about open carry?
Open carry laws, which haven’t received as much attention in recent months, are a little more confusing. According to a Dec. 1, 2015 posted on the Kansas State Collegian website, “Kansas campus gun policy to see changes,” by Taylor Harrelson, “In 2014, Kansas legislature passed a law that prohibits guns unless a sign that says no open carry is posted on campus or buildings,” Brodie Herrman, senior in political science, director of state relations and member of the Collegian Media Group board of directors, said. “In 2015, you are now allowed to conceal carry without license or prior training. Combined, all of the laws create a messy problem.”
On July 1, 2017, the exemption from Personal and Family Protection Act the Kansas Legislature passed in 2012 the extended to colleges and universities will expire, and it will become legal to carry concealed on campus except in specified areas. The main focus of the Kansas Board of Regents since then has been focused on how to accommodate concealed firearms. With some many college students under the age of 21, the question of whether and how a student under 21 can carry a weapon, therefore, should be answered.
A quick search of the internet turned up unsatisfactory results. We called the University of Kansas Public Affairs office and requested information about open carry on campus. The representative said that it has always been illegal on campus. “It was never on the table,” she said.
That still wasn’t enough, so we pressed for more. When asked where policy specifically stated open carry was not allowed, the Public Affairs representative had to go looking. She later emailed the university’s policy which she found on a part of the university’s website that had not been finalized for the public yet.
The publication is titled Draft University-wide Weapons Policy, version submitted to the Board of Regents. There, the policy is spelled out under Open Carry Prohibited: “Except as otherwise specifically provided in the Policy Statement...open carry of any firearm anywhere on any of the University campuses is prohibited. Each entrance to each building and facility on each campus shall be conspicuously posted with appropriate signs indicating that openly carrying a firearm into that building or facility is prohibited. Additional signs may be posted as appropriate.”
There will likely be more changes going forward, if Kansans like Patricia Stoneking, 2015 president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, are any indication.
In an April 2, 2015 article in the Kansas City Star, “Brownback signs bill that allows permit-free concealed carry of guns in Kansas,” She said lowering the concealed carry age to 18 from 21 is the next step.
“Eighteen-year-olds are allowed to open carry, and they go to war and put their lives on the line to protect this country,” Stoneking said. “I believe we can lower the age to 18 at some point in the future. I think after everybody sees that there are not going to be any of the dire predictions coming true, and they relax a little bit, then we can talk about that.”
Stoneking retired in October, 2015, citing health reasons.
That being said, the newly convened Kansas legislative session may offer up the next round of changes for Kansas.