Obtaining a concealed-carry permit in Kansas isn’t exactly a difficult task. A 2006 law made Kansas a “shall-issue” state, meaning that law enforcement does not have discretion to deny permits to people who meet certain qualifications, though people who want to carry concealed firearms also are required to complete a gun-safety class. A majority of the state’s senators, however, believe that it should be even easier to pack heat if you live in the Sunflower State. Twenty-six of the state’s 40 senators co-sponsored a bill eliminating the requirements to take the class and to obtain the a permit.
The bill is labeled a “constitutional carry” bill because of its supporters’ mistaken belief that a permitting requirement and similar restrictions on concealed firearms violate the Second Amendment. As the Supreme Court explained in District of Columbia v. Heller, the right to bear arms is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Nor is this conception of the Second Amendment particularly new. To the contrary, Justice Antonin Scalia explained in his majority opinion, “the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues.”
Echoing National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre’s claim that “[t]he only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Kansas State Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce (R) claims that this legislation will “lead to more protection of individuals.” Empirical data, however, does not bear out this claim. A literature review by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center determined that areas with more guns have higher homicide rates, for example. Another study found that, in higher education settings “there were more gun threats at schools that allowed firearms possession than schools that prohibited students from owning guns.”
Other data shows that the premise of the NRA’s good guy/bad guy framework is flawed. In reality, mass shootings — the kind of situation where a “good guy with a gun” might be best poised to end a killer’s rampage — are quite rare. Meanwhile, according to Washington State Sociology Professor Jennifer Schwartz, “[n]early half of all homicides, committed by men or women, were preceded by some sort of argument or fight.” Forty percent of male offenders and about one-third of female offenders were drinking alcohol when they committed a homicide offense.
Homicides, in other words, don’t often occur for want of a good guy with a gun. They occur much more often because two guys are arguing at a bar, and one of them happens to be armed.