Kansas Concealed Carry Applications At Record... Low?

At first glance, the news that Kansas concealed carry applications are at their lowest level since 2006 is pretty shocking. We’ve seen months of headlines touting record high gun sales, ammunition in common calibers is nearly impossible to find, and some sheriffs are reporting overwhelming demand for concealed carry licenses that have resulted in months-long delays to even apply. In Kansas, however, the number of new applications have slowed to a trickle.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says his office has reported over 3,100 applications for concealed carry licenses that were received in the 2020 fiscal year.

Schmidt says in the 2020 fiscal year, the Concealed Carry Licensing Unit received 3,193 applications, which is the lowest number received in a fiscal year since the licensing program’s beginning in 2006…

The AG says that while the number of new applications has dropped, most residents that already have permits have been choosing to keep their licenses active which accounts for the CCLU’s 12,735 renewal applications during the last fiscal year.

Have Kansas suddenly decided to reject their Second Amendment rights? Not according to the number of NICS checks conducted in the state over the past few months.

The latest NICS figures reveal the number of background checks by licensed firearm dealers in Kansas skyrocketed from 17,535 in February to 29,816 in March. That’s an increase of 12,281 or 70%.

According to the FBI‘s data, in all of 2019 there were 66,735 background checks conducted on handgun sales in the state. From January 1st to June 30th of this year there have already been 64,510 checks for handgun sales, so we’re looking at close to a 100% increase in the number of pistols sold. You’d think that would result in a substantial increase in concealed carry applications, yet we’re seeing the numbers go in the opposite direction. What gives?

I suspect there are two major reasons why the numbers for concealed carry licenses are declining, even while gun sales are soaring, starting with the fact that Kansas is a “constitutional carry” state.

On July 1st, 2015, the state law requiring a license to carry a concealed firearm was rescinded, and a new permitless carry law took its place. Since then, as long as you’re legally allowed to own that firearm you can also legally carry it, openly or concealed.

The primary reason to obtain a concealed carry license in Kansas now is for the ability to carry in other states that recognize the license. Missouri and Oklahoma, two of Kansas’ neighboring states, have also adopted permitless carry laws that allow legal gun owners in Kansas to lawfully carry in their states. Missouri’s law became effective in 2017, and Oklahoma’s law took effect just last year. Now that two border states don’t require Kansas to have a license to carry, it stands to reason that Kansans living on or near the borders of those states might decide to forgo the license even if they travel across state lines for work or for shopping. If the license will be rarely if ever needed, why not save the money?

That leads me to my second sneaking suspicion: the coronavirus closures and cratering economy has led many Kansans to do some belt-tightening as far as their budgets are concerned, and concealed carry licenses may be seen as a superfluous expense if it’s not actually needed to carry. The state’s unemployment rate was 3.1% in January, but ballooned to 11.9% in April. The numbers are trending in the right direction now, but June’s unemployment rate of 7.6% is still more than double what it was just six months ago.

If you were buying a gun for the first time in Kansas right now and you wanted to carry it for self-defense, how big of a priority would it be to pay $100 to the state Attorney General’s office and another $32.50 to your county sheriff in order to get a concealed carry license that you don’t need to lawfully carry? Wouldn’t you rather put that money towards a training course instead? It wouldn’t be a difficult decision for me, and I suspect the same holds true for many gun owners.

Ranges across the state are plenty busy and gun sales are booming, so I highly doubt we’ve seen a sudden decline in the number of Kansans who are also carrying for their protection. They may not be showing up in official statistics anymore, but that doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared.