After seven years of decline, Kansas saw the number of applications to carry concealed guns in Kansas more than double at a time when firearm sales have mushroomed nationally.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Thursday reported there were 7,717 applications to carry concealed guns during fiscal year 2021, a 141% increase from a year earlier.
It was the most concealed-carry applications the state has seen since fiscal year 2015, when the state enacted a law allowing Kansans to carry a concealed gun without a permit.
In the first year after that law started, concealed-carry permits fell from 9,804 in 2015 to 5,874 in fiscal 2016.
They had been dropping steadily before bottoming out at 3,193 in fiscal year 2020 before seeing an upswing in 2021.
The attorney general’s office didn’t respond to a question about the sudden increase, although it was generally believed to be tied to an increase in gun sales.
FBI data of background checks indicates that overall gun sales nationally were up by a little more than 11 million in calendar year 2020 from 2019.
While gun sales aren’t tracked in the United States, the FBI data compiled from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System is generally considered a gauge of gun sales across the country
Breaking the FBI data down by fiscal year – which runs from July to June – shows that Kansas saw an increase in background checks at the same time the concealed-gun permits were climbing.
The FBI data shows that about 35,000 more background checks were done for Kansas gun buyers in fiscal 2021 than the year before.
The FBI reported 246,586 background checks in fiscal year 2020-21 compared to 211,357 from the year before.
“Last year we sat in front of our TV sets watching politicians use the pandemic to restrict rights, close firearm stores, and furlough prisoners,” National Rifle Association lobbyist Travis Couture-Lovelady said in an email.
“People felt vulnerable and realized ultimately they were responsible for their own safety. That’s why we saw an increase in gun sales and a rise in permits to carry those guns,” he said.
Democratic state Rep. Jo Ella Hoye, a leading gun-safety advocate in the Legislature, took comfort in that Kansans were willing to get the training that’s required for getting a concealed-carry permit.
“It’s regrettable that permitless carry was enacted in 2015, but it’s encouraging to see that there are still Kansans who find value in a permit and training,” Hoye said.
“Responsible gun owners don’t forgo the training,” Hoye said.
Two changes made in the law could lead to further increases in applications.
The Legislature passed a law this year that allows anyone from 18 to 20 years of age to get a provisional permit to carry a concealed gun.
Lawmakers also lowered the cost of the application fee for a concealed-carry license to $112 from $132.50.
However, Hoye expressed concern about the prospect of allowing teens and young adults at age 20 to get a provisional permit to carry concealed guns.
“Issuing concealed carry permits to 18, 19, and 20 year-olds expands guns on campus and guns at work for public employers and weakens our gun laws putting young Kansans and their families at risk,” Hoye said in an email.
“I expect that Kansas will see another increase in permits-issued next year, but not for the right reasons,” she said.