Local lawmakers and gun enthusiasts are expressing mixed feelings about an NRA-backed bill in the Kansas Legislature that would remove the training and permit requirements in the state's concealed carry law.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, authored Senate Bill 45, which calls for changes to the concealed carry law. Currently, for someone to carry a concealed firearm, they must complete an eight-hour training course and obtain a permit. The proposal being considered would wipe out both of those requirements. The Senate passed the bill by a 31-7 vote, and a vote is expected in the House soon.

Bob Prewitt, a Garden City certified Kansas firearms instructor, said he believes training firearms owners must be made a priority. At the same time, he said, the constitutional carry bill should not be a government mandate.

Prewitt, who was a proponent of Kansas' 2006 concealed carry law and even testified in front of the Legislature about it, said he is not comfortable with just allowing anybody to have a gun without any training.

“Everybody who is a shooter should have training. It goes with the responsibility of carrying a firearm,” he said.

Training is important not only for safety, but also to make sure those who carry firearms understand the laws of concealed carry and use of force laws, Prewitt said.

“Concealed carry class does not teach you to shoot,” he said. “It teaches you what the laws are regarding carrying a firearm, and that is what many would miss with constitutional carry.”

The term "constitutional carry" is an expression used to describe the legal carrying of a handgun, either openly or concealed, without the requirement of a permit.

Prewitt acknowledged the validity of the arguments for constitutional carry, but said if he had to pick one option, it would be leaving the training requirement intact. 

Dick Erskin, who runs the Wooden Nickel Pawn Shop, 1302 Taylor Plaza, which deals in guns among other things, opposes the constitutional carry proposal because he feels a person should have training and a permit before being allowed to carry a concealed firearm.

“I would feel a lot more safe and secure if carriers were to be trained,” Erskin said. “There is a course offered at (Garden City Community College), and it takes only one Saturday to get the training.”

Erskin said he thinks a license is needed for one to carry a gun for the safety aspects and for one to understand what their rights are.

“If you cannot dedicate one day at the college to get training, you probably do not have enough time to carry a gun,” Erskin said. “Just because you have a gun is not always the answer to your problems; but if you know your rights and limitations, everyone is better off.”

Erskin said there is a need for gun safety alongside the right for people to carry weapons for self-defense.

“If you knew a storm was coming, you would roll up the windows of your car,” he said, adding that having a gun to defend oneself is no different.

Finney County Sheriff Kevin Bascue said he likes the current concealed carry law, but hasn't decided where he stands on the constitutional carry proposal.

“I am not sure at this time how the new legislation will impact our communities or law enforcement,” he said. “As with the current concealed permit process when it was first enacted, I reserved my judgment until I could see how it was going to impact our community. I do not believe it has had any negative impacts that I am aware of.”

Garden City police Capt. Randy Ralston said the Garden City Police Department would not make a public statement for or against the proposal.

“We will enforce the laws as they are written,” he said.

State Rep. John Doll, R-Garden City, said he would be more comfortable with minimum training for those who carry concealed firearms.  

Doll said he anticipates an amendment is going to be proposed on the bill that includes a requirement for minimal training on gun safety, and that he would support an amended bill. 

“The amendment would be similar to what people need to hunt pheasants,” he said. “These guns we are talking about will be used to shoot people, and so that person should have at least as much training as a person who wants to shoot birds. No finger printing or eight-hour course; it would be a simple training.”

A concealed carry handgun (CCH) permit costs $132.50. The eight-hour training course typically costs an applicant about $100, but that price will vary amongst instructors and is at their discretion. There is also a $16 fee to the department of revenue when getting the actual CCH license issued.

Senate Bill 45 was approved by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-governmeA poll released Thursday by Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and Kansas Moms Demand Action, two organizations that advocate for gun control, showed that 78 percent of Kansans polled prefer that people carrying concealed weapons have permits. The poll said 53 percent would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported the bill to amend the concealed carry permitting system, 18 percent would be more likely and 23 percent said it would make no difference.