Shotgun News, June 1, 2006, pp. 26-28
Victory in Kansas And Nebraska
I've written a number of columns for Shotgun News over the last few years about concealed weapon law victories. In the May 1, 2003 issue I discussed how Michigan and Colorado had adopted non-discretionary concealed weapon permit laws. The August 1, 2003 column discussed how Alaska had gone “Vermont-carry”--no longer requiring a permit to carry concealed. The November 1, 2003 and March 1, 2004 issues covered, respectively, the Missouri and Ohio adoption of non-discretionary concealed carry laws—and in both states, there was not even a discretionary permit law before. Concealed carry had been completely prohibited for civilians. In addition, we have had a number of minor improvements to the existing non-discretionary permit laws in other states.
The way things are going, I am going to run out of material like this, real soon—because we are going to run out of states with abusive concealed weapon permit laws. The latest victories were in Kansas and Nebraska—two states that have long prohibited all concealed carrying of handguns by civilians.
In Kansas, gun rights activists have been trying to get a bill passed for several years, with the governor vetoing such bills in 1997 and 2004. This time around, Governor Kathleen Sebelius vetoed such a bill again—but we had the votes in both houses of the legislature to override her veto. The State Senate overrode her veto 30-10—or three votes more than the required 2/3 majority—and the Kansas House overrode her veto 91-33—or seven votes more than required. Not only were the margins large on the override votes, but this is the first time that a Kansas governor's veto has been overridden in twelve years!
The details of the new law are not too surprising. It requires the Kansas Attorney-General to start issuing concealed weapon permits starting January 1, 2007, and permits will be valid for four years. The law allows the Attorney-General to issue these either as a driver's license sized card, or by marking the standard driver's license as a concealed weapon license. I don't which of these Kansas will actually do; it seems to be the choice of the Attorney-General which approach to take. Either is fine with me, but there are some advantages to making it a notation on your driver's license—just one less item to stuff into your wallet. (You should see how crowded my wallet is, what with the several different state concealed weapon licenses that I have now.)
For those of us who don't live in Kansas, the good news is that the law will probably recognize permits issued by a number of other states—if you are not a Kansas resident. If you live in Kansas, you have to get a Kansas permit. Concealed weapon licenses issued by another state (or the District of Columbia—I won't hold my breath for that to happen) will be recognized “if the attorney general determines that standards for issuance of such license or permit by such state or district are equal to or greater than the standards imposed by this act.” This is not too surprising—you just never know when another state will start putting concealed weapon permits in boxes of Cracker Jacks. Like other states that have such provisions, the Kansas Attorney-General is required to publish a list of which other states issue licenses that meet the requirements.
For a Kansas resident to get a permit, they must have been a resident of the county in which they apply, and a resident of Kansas for at least six months, at least 21 years old, and not have been convicted of a felony (or allowed in to a diversion program to avoid a felony conviction). A mental illness or drug lockup, or any of a number of misdemeanor convictions in the previous five years, also disqualify you. You have to be a U.S. citizen, and not dishonorably discharged from the armed forces. Restraining orders for domestic violence, stalking, and “contempt of court in a child support proceeding” will also prevent you from getting a permit.
Like a number of other states, Kansas is going to require training to get a permit—an eight hour weapons safety class. The Attorney-General will be responsible for determining which firearms training courses will meet the legal requirements—and you will also have to complete a class to renew your license. The law uses the word “requalify,” which suggests that the intent is a live fire course. This isn't a bad idea, of course, but depending how important the Kansas Attorney-General considers this, it may prevent the permits of a number of other states from being recognized as meeting the standards of the Kansas law.
The license fee is “not to exceed $150” and from the rest of the language in the statute, I am guessing that you better expect it be at the high end of the range—not the low end. This is a pretty big chunk of money, but if you get mugged even once, you'll spend almost that much on your health insurance deductible at the emergency room. (Assuming, of course, you reach the emergency room.) The Attorney-General can take as much as 180 days to issue a license, while running background checks—an extraordinarily long period of time compared to other states. Let's hope that they don't actually take that long.
The list of places where your permit will not be valid is pretty long, and most of them are unsurprising: courthouses; police stations; jails and prisons; bars. A few places are a little surprising: the state fairgrounds is off limits. Polling places are also prohibited, but if you look into the history of “Bleeding Kansas “--the period when abolitionists and pro-slavery forces made blood run in the streets in the 1850s—this is not surprising. A few of the prohibited places are disappointing, but follow in the pattern of a few other states: all schools from elementary on up through college; sporting events; state office buildings; city halls; “any church of temple.”
A few places that are prohibited by the Kansas law that seem to be unique are really not all that surprising: community mental health centers; “any day care home or group day care home” and other child care centers. One of the more depressing prohibited places are “any child exchange and visitation center.” These are places where parents who have been prohibited from unsupervised visits with their children get to see them—and where relations between parents have become so contentious that children have to handed off in neutral turf. I can see why the law requires this, and I can see why it seemed like a good idea. I can also forsee situations where this ban is going to be a mistake, when an angry father comes to one of these places to get revenge on his ex-wife—and she won't be able to defend herself from a man who is twice as strong as her—and he may not care that he is breaking the law by bringing a gun, a knife, or a baseball bat with him.
Like many of the other states, the new Kansas law allows businesses to prohibit concealed carry on the premises, or while working. If you deliver pizzas, and your company prohibits concealed carry on the job—don't get caught carrying. It is a misdemeanor. Businesses will have to clearly warn customers that concealed carry is prohibited on the premises: “provided that the premises are posted, in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of persons entering the property where carrying a concealed weapon is prohibited.” It is also a misdemeanor to carry concealed while under the influence.
The good news (especially compared to Nebraska) is that the state law prohibits any local government from passing any measure more restrictive in this area. “Any city ordinance or county resolution that regulates, restricts or prohibits the carrying of concealed weapons shall not be applicable to any person licensed in accordance with the provisions of this act.”
Nebraska, like Kansas, has long prohibited concealed carry by civilians. Like Kansas, gun rights activists have been working on this for a long time—at least ten years. Unlike Kansas, previous bills never reached the governor's desk. This time around, Nebraska's legislature passed a non-discretionary permit law that, while not perfect, was better than what they had before—which was a complete ban on concealed carry.
Governor Dave Heineman signed it into law on April 5. Like the Kansas law, it requires firearms training, and is rather specific about the subjects to be covered. The Nebraska State Patrol will accept permit applications, and is required to issue a permit within five days of completing a background check. To receive a permit, you must be a lawfully allowed under federal law to possess a firearm, be at least 21 years old, meet Nebraska's eyesight standard for a driver's license, and be a Nebraska resident for at least 180 days. Like other states, Nebraska prohibits those who have been found to be “a mentally ill and dangerous person” under either Nebraska law, or that of another state—but in the last ten years, not five years, as is the case with many of the other state concealed weapon permit laws. Firearms or drug control law violations in the last ten years also prevent you from getting a permit.
Permits are valid for five years, and cost $100. The language of this section is a little misleading: “A permit to carry a concealed handgun is valid throughout the state for a period of five years after the date of issuance.” News coverage of the law's passage, however, indicated that existing local ordinances, such as that of Omaha, which prohibit concealed carry of handguns, would remain in effect and unaffected by the new law, and that other local governments that banned concealed carry were free to do so. In short, if you live anywhere in Nebraska, you are free to obtain a concealed carry permit—but Omaha, and perhaps other cities, can still prosecute you for carrying.
This is not ideal, but I suspect that over the next few years, as it becomes apparent that widespread concealed carry is not a public safety issue, that the Nebraska legislature will revisit this issue. A slightly similar situation developed in Pennsylvania when that's state's first non-discretionary permit law treated residents of Philadelphia worse than those in the rest of the state, and probably for the same reason.
What, you may ask, is the “same reason”? Philadelphia is where Pennsylvania's black population is concentrated. The same is true for Omaha—and not surprisingly, local government officials in both cities didn't think much of allowing law-abiding people to defend themselves.
Other than local governments passing bans, Nebraska's list of places where a concealed weapon permit holder may not carry is much like that of other states: courthouses, meeting of the state legislature; police stations, jails, prisons, polling places; athletic events; banks; “places of worship”; bars—are all prohibited. Nebraska has a few unique places that will also be prohibited: emergency rooms and political fundraisers.
Private property owners may prohibit permit holders from carrying concealed, but must have “posted conspicuous notice that carrying a concealed handgun is prohibited in or on the place or premises or has made a request, directly or through an authorized representative or management personnel, that the permitholder remove the concealed handgun from the place or premises.” This doesn't apply in parking lots, however, as long as you leave your gun in the car.
You may not carry concealed while drinking, or as long as any alcohol remains in your blood, urine, or breath. This is quite a bit more severe than the more common bans of carrying concealed while under the influence. Just to be sure that you don't run afoul of the law, you will probably need to wait several hours after even one drink before you carry concealed—which isn't a bad idea, anyway.
Unlike Kansas, the Nebraska law does not recognize permits issued by other states, and there is no provision for non-residents to obtain Nebraska permits. This is perhaps the most unpleasant aspect of this law—and one that cries for Nebraska legislators to correct in the next few years.
 Carl Manning, Associated Press, “Update 2: Kansas House Overrides Veto of Gun Bill,” Forbes, March 23, 2006, http://www.forbes.com/technology/feeds/ap/2006/03/23/ap2618492.html, last accessed April 16, 2006.
 Kansas SB 418 (2006), § 3, http://www.kslegislature.org/legsrv-bills/showBill.do?id=86307, last accessed April 16, 2006.
 Kansas SB 418 (2006), § 3(c).
 Kansas SB 418 (2006), § 4(a).
 Kansas SB 418 (2006), § 4(b).
 Kansas SB 418 (2006), § 5(b).
 Kansas SB 418 (2006), § 5(e).
 Kansas SB 418 (2006), § 10.
 Kansas SB 418 (2006), § 11.
 Kansas SB 418 (2006), § 12.
 Kansas SB 418 (2006), § 17.
 “Concealed-weapons bill adopted,” Sioux City [Iowa] Journal, March 31, 2006, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/articles/2006/03/31/news/nebraska/a1269b7e767d798d8625714200131564.txt, last accessed April 16, 2006.
 Nebraska LB 454 (2006), §§ 4, 6, http://www.unicam.state.ne.us/legal/SLIP_LB454.pdf, last accessed April 16, 2006.
 Nebraska LB 454 (2006), § 7.
 Nebraska LB 454 (2006), § 10.
 “Concealed-weapons bill adopted,” Sioux City [Iowa] Journal, March 31, 2006.
 http://www.city-data.com/city/Omaha-Nebraska.html, last accessed April 16, 2006; U.S. Census Bureau, “State and County QuickFacts: Nebraska,” http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/31000.html, last accessed April 16, 2006.
 Nebraska LB 454 (2006), § 16.