On Thursday—the very same day that President Biden announced his executive actions to restrict certain firearms—the Kansas legislature took a bold step in the opposite direction.
The Kansas legislature passed a pro-gun rights bill that expands the right to keep and bear arms in multiple ways. In the morning, the Senate passed HB 2058 by a vote of 30-8. Then, later in the evening the same day, the House passed the Senate version of the bill by a vote of 80-43.
The Kansas legislation does three things. First and foremost, it reduces the minimum concealed carry age from 21 to 18. In order to carry a concealed firearm, 18-20 year-olds would have to pass concealed-carry training and carry a permit. Kansans over the age of 21 are already allowed by Kansas’s “constitutional carry” statute to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. Second, the bill recognizes the validity of other states’ concealed carry permits, provided the state has a reciprocity agreement with Kansas.
And third, the Kansas bill allows people who have committed lesser crimes and have had those crimes expunged by a judge to regain their right to keep and bear arms after a time. There are thousands of Americans who made a mistake when they were young but have lived a clean and law-abiding life since then. Many desperately want the right to defend themselves and their families now; and others want to be able to go hunting again. Getting an expungement is no easy thing; it requires a court to sign off and conclude that the person would not present a threat to the public.
But the provision that predictably drew the greatest criticism from the anti-gun Left was the reduction of the concealed carry age. They hyperventilated that 18-20 year-olds would take their guns to parties and drink alcohol; and then mayhem would ensue.
However, we know empirically that that is unlikely to happen. People in that age group already have the right to openly carry handguns in Kansas, and no such drunken abuse of firearms has occurred. Moreover, in 2017, the Kansas Legislature legalized concealed carry on college campuses for students 21 and older. The same argument was made then. But as I have written before, the predicted violence never occurred. Now, four years later, concealed carry continues to earn high marks on college campuses.
The arguments for reducing the concealed carry age to 18 are compelling. If an 18 year-old can be expected to carry a firearm in the military and potentially die for his country, then he ought to be able to carry to concealed firearm to protect himself against criminals in his home country. Especially when he is required to have training first.
As the father of five daughters, I am particularly concerned about the safety of women. Concealed carry serves as both a deterrent and a force equalizer when a woman is attacked by a man. Research by John R. Lott, Jr., has shown that concealed carry laws lead to a significant reduction in the incidence of rape and aggravated assault. When my girls head off to college, I don’t think they should have to wait until their junior year to be able to protect themselves.
The Kansas bill now sits on the Democrat Governor Laura Kelly’s desk. It will not surprise anyone if she vetoes it. But the good news is that the number of yes votes in the Senate was a large enough supermajority to override a veto. Although the number of House votes in favor were a few short of the required 84 to override, the first time a version of the bill was voted on in the House, 85 representatives voted in favor. So there is reason to hope that some legislators will switch their votes again.
Regardless, the actions of the Kansas Legislature on Thursday were a powerful shot across the bow of the Biden Administration. Kansas is not interested in Biden’s aggressive gun control. Indeed, the vast majority of the country has no appetite for his gun-grabbing measures. It’s an indication that if the Democrats in Washington persist in attempting to restrict our Second Amendment rights, they will likely feel the recoil in November 2022.
Kris W. Kobach served as the elected Secretary of State of Kansas during 2011-19. An expert in immigration law and policy, he coauthored the Arizona SB-1070 immigration law. In 2017 President Trump tapped him to lead the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity. He currently serves as General Counsel for the Alliance for Free Citizens. His website is kriskobach.com.