Despite concern from police and gun-safety trainers, a state senator is pushing a bill that would allow people as young as 18 to carry a concealed gun in Kentucky without any formal training, background check or permit.
Now, Kentuckians have to be at least 21 to get a permit to carry a concealed deadly weapon and complete a training course. Also, state law bars those who are not legal residents of the state and a variety of people with a criminal background from obtaining a permit, including felons, those convicted of a misdemeanor drug offense within the last three years, those with two or more DUIs, those with certain assault convictions, and those who owe more than a year’s worth of child support.
If Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, succeeds in passing Senate Bill 7, only felons would not be able to carry concealed weapons.
“My bill is constitutional and is for law-abiding citizens,” Albertson said. “I agree people should have training but not if the Constitution doesn’t require it.”
He said he is sponsoring the bill at the request of the National Rifle Association.
The Kentucky Sheriffs’ Association has not taken a formal position on the bill because some members favor it, but the group has sent a list of concerns to the Legislative Research Commission and various legislators, said Executive Director Jerry Wagner.
“We basically like the way the law is now,” Wagner said. “People are trained. They have to attend a qualified shooting school and undergo background checks and must be at least 21. All that would change with SB 7. We are concerned about the public safety issue.”
Wagner noted that Kentucky last year denied or suspended about 2,500 applications to carry concealed weapons for a variety of reasons spelled out in the law.
The bill also would have a financial impact, Wagner said.
He said the $60 fee for a concealed-carry permit is split evenly three ways among the Sheriffs’ Association, the Kentucky State Police and the state Administrative Office of the Courts.
The state issued about 64,000 permits last year, he said, generating about $3.84 million for the three groups.
Lexington Police Chief Mark Barnard said he opposes SB 7. He said the process to obtain a permit to carry a concealed gun should be retained because it has two important functions.
“One, it provides background checks that help prevent convicted felons and domestic violence offenders from obtaining a firearm, and two, it requires completion of a basic safety course that covers topics that are beneficial to both the gun owner and the general public,” he said in an email. “I would welcome the opportunity to discuss concerns of our officers about this legislation with any member of the General Assembly.”
The Kentucky State Police are saying little publicly about SB 7. “We are neutral on this right now,” said Trooper Josh Brashears, without elaboration.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, the state’s chief law-enforcement official, declined to respond to questions about the bill. Also not responding to questions were Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad and the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police.
Marty Dailey, a concealed-carry permit trainer who offers training classes in Lexington, said he usually doesn’t talk to the media,“but I want to say this bill is foolish and will hurt public safety.”
“Everyone needs a minimum amount of training when they have a gun and the police will be hurt by this,” Dailey said. “It’s too bad legislators feel so much pressure from the NRA that they ignore public and police safety.”
The cost of a training class that is required to get a concealed-carry permit can range from $25 to $85, he said.
An officer who stops a vehicle can find out quickly if a person has a concealed carry permit, Dailey said.
“The officer can ask the driver about it and realize this person has had the proper training on how to interact with the police,” he said. “Under the new bill, an officer will have to assume that everyone is carrying.”
Dailey also said people under 21 should not be allowed to carry a concealed gun. “They’re not ready,” he said.
Similar laws that allow people to carry concealed guns without a permit are spreading quickly across the nation, said Allison Anderman, staff attorney for the non-profit Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco.
Before 2014, only four states — Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming and Vermont — allowed it, she said. Since then, six states — Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Mississippi and West Virginia — have adopted similar laws.
Anderman said she has not read Kentucky’s SB7 but is concerned that 18-year-olds would be allowed to carry concealed firearms
“Many people 18, 19 or 20 are not fully mature adults,” she said. “Do we want them walking around with concealed guns?”
Reminded that 18-year-olds are eligible for the military, she said, “Yes, but they certainly get background checks and training before they are issued any guns.”
Robinson said he expects his controversial measure to receive quick action by lawmakers when the 2017 General Assembly resumes Tuesday.
The bill has nine co-sponsors, including Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown; Majority Caucus Chairman Dan Seum, R-Louisville; Sen Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester; and Senate Education Chairman Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green.
The bill also has received two of the three required readings for passage though it has not yet been heard in committee. It is now in the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee, headed by Robinson.
SB 7 specifically would allow a person to legally carry a concealed weapon without a permit “if the person is not prohibited from carrying the weapon by other law applicable to the person, the weapon, or the location in which the weapon is carried.”
The nine-page bill names places where a person could not carry a concealed firearm. They include a police station or sheriff’s office, jail, courthouse, school, alcoholic beverage store that allows consumption on the premises, airport, any place where federal law prohibits carrying of firearms, and any meeting of the governing body of a county, municipality or special district, or any meeting of the Kentucky General Assembly.
However, the bill would not preclude a legislator from carrying a concealed deadly weapon during a legislative meeting.