Kansans now enjoy a more simplified set of gun laws, thanks to new legislation effective July 1st of this year. The new gun law, HB 2578 generally bars localities from banning the carry of unconcealed firearms on foot and in vehicles; local government can still limit gun carry inside governmental facilities if it provides adequate security measures to protect the citizens it has disarmed.
Kansas is now listed as a ‘gold star’ open carry state by OpenCarry.org, a national gun rights community with over 33,000 registered members. According to John Pierce, co-founder of OpenCarry.org, a gold star open carry state protects 3 critical core elements of gun rights: (1) the right to generally openly carry holstered handguns on foot without a permit, (2) the right to open carry without a permit in vehicles, and (3) protection from local restrictions on open carry rights.
Earl McIntosh, a long time Kansas libertarian party organizer has been at the center of the multi-year battle to secure open carry rights in Kansas. “It’s taken a long time to get this done,” said McIntosh, adding that “it took the combined efforts of citizens, the Kansas State Rifle Association (KSRA), the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the opinions of Kansas Attorney General to make this happen.”
Open carry was never illegal under Kansas state law, but a handful of localities passed ordinances against open carry.
In the end, after all the discussion between all sides, the legislature overwhelmingly sided with freedom,” added McIntosh, “102-19 in the House, and 37-2 in the Senate.”
Kansas was one of two states that did not generally preempt localities from banning gun carry that was otherwise lawful under state law. “All other states now preempt localities from banning gun carry on private property, public streets, and sidewalks except for Missouri,” said Mr. Pierce,” either by specific state statute or the state constitutional doctrine of “field preemption” where state courts conclude that “the intent of the Legislature to occupy the field to the exclusion of municipal regulation.”
All eyes now on Missouri's legislature
Earlier this month in Kansas’ neighbor Missouri, that state's Governor Jay Nixon vetoed SB 656 which would have preempted Missouri localities from banning open carry by persons granted a license to carry a concealed handgun, as well as allowed - but not required - school districts to arm school staff members. SB 656 passed by veto proof majorities in both the state House and Senate, if you include at least 2 of the 3 Republican Senators who did not cast a vote on SB 656.
Governor Nixon’s veto took many Missouri gun owners by surprise because the legislature had already agreed to strip out a federal gun law ‘nullification’ provision in the original SB 656 which Nixon strenuously opposed. Kansas’ McIntosh was also disappointed because he had expected that the legislature’s ‘Missouri compromise’ with Governor Nixon - to strip out the federal gun law nullification - would pave the way to pass open carry preemption in Missouri at least as to concealed carry license holders.
It’s easy for Kansas and Missouri gun owners to run afoul of these unmarked open carry bans in Missouri contends McIntosh.
After all, Kansas City, Missouri is right next to Kansas City, Kansas, as well as North Kansas City – it’s very easy to cross state and local lines around here,” said McIntosh, “and the last thing we need is a mysterious patchwork of local gun laws which will entrap law abiding gun owners from both states.”
OpenCarry.org’s Pierce predicts that the Missouri legislature will override Nixon’s veto, pointing to the apparent veto proof legislative majorities in support of SB 656 as well as the precedent set by a number of legislatures over the past few years to defend popular gun rights bills against gubernatorial vetoes. For example earlier this year the Oklahoma legislature overroad Governor Mary Fallin’s veto of a bill to require state Sheriffs to approve National Firearms Act related applications unless there was good cause not to approve the application.