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Kansas Moving Toward Allowing Concealed Guns Without Permit

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is moving toward removing what some gun-rights advocates see as its last major restriction on firearms, with the state Senate debating a bill Wednesday to end a requirement for permits to carry concealed weapons.

The Republican-dominated Senate was expected to pass the measure in a final vote Thursday. Twenty-six of its 40 members are sponsoring the bill, led by Majority Leader Terry Bruce.

The measure would go next to the House. Both chambers have strong gun-rights majorities, and GOP Gov. Sam Brownback has signed every major piece of gun-rights legislation since he took office in January 2011.

All states allow some form of concealed carry, but the National Rifle Association says Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming don't require a permit, while Montana allows concealed carry without a permit outside cities, which is most of the state.

Bruce, a Nickerson Republican, and other supporters of the Kansas bill note that state law already allows the open carrying of firearms without a permit. A state concealed carry permit costs $132.50 and requires eight hours of training.

“Why should we ask permission from the government to protect ourselves or our family?” Bruce said. “Is it the last restriction? It's the last major obstacle, I think.”

The bill would apply to anyone 21 or older who can legally carry a gun. Critics contend the current permit requirement ensures that people who carry concealed have some firearms training.

“That piece alone really needs to be looked at,” said Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat who opposes the bill.

Kansas did not enact a concealed carry law until 2006, when legislators overrode a veto by then-Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. The state started issuing permits in 2007 and has granted more than 90,000.

A string of high-profile political victories for gun-rights advocates followed. In 2010, voters approved a constitutional amendment to emphasize that gun ownership is an individual right. Kansas last year enacted an NRA-backed law prohibiting local restrictions on gun sales and ownership. A 2013 law declares that the federal government has no authority to regulate firearms manufactured, sold and kept in Kansas.

“It is certainly a different mindset,” said Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association. “A much more pleasant one.”

But Faust-Goudeau said: “We're going back to the wild, wild West.”