Sponsor of bill that would allow concealed carry without permit optimistic of chances

01/18/2017 06:01 PM

The sponsor of legislation that would nullify much of Kentucky’s concealed-carry law says he expects the bill to pass with overwhelming support from the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Senate Bill 7, sponsored by Sen. Albert Robinson and backed by the National Rifle Association, is one of a handful of bills that have already received two readings in the Senate during the opening week of this year’s 30-day session. It’s been assigned to the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee, which Robinson chairs.

If passed, it would allow anyone eligible to own a firearm to carry concealed in Kentucky without obtaining a license. Exemptions include law enforcement offices, detention facilities, courthouses, government meetings, bars, elementary and secondary schools, child-care centers and airports.

State law requires those 21 and older hoping to carry concealed firearms to get licensed through Kentucky State Police, a process that includes a background check and up to eight hours of gun training.

Robinson, R-London, sponsored a similar measure last year and said those who are allowed to own guns should be able to carry them hidden from view without a license.

“If they’re law-abiding citizens, they already have the right to have one,” he told Pure Politics in a phone interview Wednesday. “… A lot of good people want to feel protection, but they don’t want (a gun) on their side.”

Other states, such as Missouri, West Virginia and Kansas, have passed comparable bills in recent years.

Robinson says he encourages gun owners to get training in handling their firearms, but he’s not concerned that such courses would not be required for people carrying concealed weapons under SB 7.

“What would be the difference in carrying on your side without training or putting it in your pocket without training?” he said.

Robinson added that there are scores of gun owners who carry concealed without a permit, undeterred by the current Class A misdemeanor offense they could receive.

In fact, Robinson says he carried a concealed weapon before obtaining his license, adding that he was one of the first in Laurel County to get such a permit. He was a senator when the concealed-carry law passed in 1996.

“I took care of my own business and I had no reason to announce that I had it, but I did have it in case I needed it,” he said. “There’s a saying, you know, it’s better to be tried by 12 than carried by six.”

The current concealed-carry permitting process in Kentucky goes beyond federal limitations on gun ownership. It prohibits those who have been convicted of a misdemeanor drug offense, two DUIs, fourth-degree assault or third-degree assault within three years of their applications as well as those who owe more than a year of unpaid child support from obtaining concealed-carry licenses.

Applicants must also pay processing fees — $60 for paper applications and $70 for electronic applications. Of those amounts, the local sheriff receives $20, the Administrative Office of the Courts gets $10 for concealed-carry background checks and $10 for background checks on youth leaders, and Kentucky State Police retains the rest.

KSP had processed 390,697 applications as of Dec. 31, 2015, with 39,521 of those coming in 2015, according to the most recent annual statistics.

Robinson says concealed-carry permits would still be issued for those traveling outside Kentucky, and he expects the agency will have an easier time in processing applications if SB 7 becomes law.

The application fees weren’t intended for “money making,” but rather “to not put any extra burden on the taxpayers,” he said.

SB 7 has picked up one Democratic co-sponsor, Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, and a similar proposal was filed by former Democratic Rep. Hubert Collins in the state House of Representatives last year when the lower chamber was controlled by Democrats.

That bill, House Bill 531, was co-sponsored by Democrats Jody Richards, Will Coursey, Gerald Watkins, Russell Meyer and Dean Schamore as well as Republican Kenny Imes but died without a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

But one Democrat opposed to SB 7, Sen. Reginald Thomas, says he’s concerned that the measure would “basically eviscerate the conceal-carry law.”

Thomas, D-Lexington, has filed legislation that would allow urban-county and consolidated local governments to regulate firearms and ammunition as a tool to combat gun violence, primarily in Louisville and Lexington.

The state’s two largest cities “experienced high murder rates in 2016,” he said.

“And this bill seems to go in the opposite direction of where I want to go, at least in the cities in terms of trying to get some kind of common sense approach over the massive distribution and possession of handguns in our major cities,” Thomas said of SB 7.

Robinson, however, contends that people who want to carry concealed weapons should be able to do so without receiving a permit.

“What we’re trying to do with this is to say if you can carry it open, why not the same people be able to just cover it?” he said.

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