As the nation watches a burgeoning children’s movement for gun control spring from Florida after last week’s mass killing, the odds of Kansas and Missouri rewriting their rules for firearms this year look slim.
Few parts of the country welcome guns, carried openly or tucked out of sight, as much as Kansas and Missouri.
The nation’s midsection is packing heat, and there’s little reason to think lawmakers in Jefferson City or Topeka find themselves in any mood for disarmament.
The Show Me State has some of the most open and least-restrictive gun laws in the country.
The state constitution guarantees “the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms.” It allows that right to be limited only for “convicted violent felons” or for those whose “mental disorder or mental infirmity” makes them dangerous.
It’s one of only 10 states allowing open or concealed carry of rifles, shotguns and handguns without a permit, for most residents age 19 or older. (In Kansas, the age is 21, but a pending bill would lower the age to 18. More on that later.)
Missouri also allows public school districts to arm teachers. Counties may still issue concealed-carry permits, which allow a person to carry firearms even in places where local jurisdictions have banned them.
In 2016, Missouri further loosened gun regulations by expanding the state’s “castle doctrine” into what is commonly called a “stand your ground” law. (Again, Kansas also has a castle doctrine.) The Missouri law lets someone defend themselves or their property, regardless of their location, using deadly force and without a requirement to retreat.
Then-Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed the bills in 2014 and 2016, but the Republican-controlled General Assembly overrode his veto both times.
Several bills have been introduced in Jefferson City this year that look to tweak Missouri’s gun rules.
Gun-rights groups think Missouri could be more friendly to firearms. They’d like to see an end to gun-free zones, contending those places simply alert would-be attackers to areas where they’re unlikely to confront return fire.
The state also has laws on the books that, because they ban guns near school zones, create a potential crime by passing a school bus on the road with a gun in the car, says Kevin Jamison, an attorney and president of the Western Missouri Shooters Alliance. He’s doubtful gun rights forces will be able to change that this year.
Also among the Missouri bills pending are efforts to stop cities from imposing local limits on the carrying of a gun, wiping away penalties for concealed weapons in restricted areas, and stripping pastors of control over who can arm themselves in a place of worship.
On the gun-control side, some Missouri lawmakers propose making it illegal for someone convicted of domestic violence or in the country illegally to possess a gun. Another bill would create a 24-hour waiting period to deliver a handgun. And one measure would require the owner of a firearm lost or stolen to report the disappearance to police.
But Jamison doesn't expect any of those measures to pass.
“It’s not likely we’ll see movement on either side of the issue in this election year,” he said.
The Sunflower State also has some of the least-restrictive gun rules in the country.
Kansans need no license or registration to carry a gun, concealed or otherwise, if they’re at least 21 years old. A bill that’s already cleared one chamber would lower that age to 18.
Last year, lawmakers told college campuses they could no longer ban guns – unless they installed expensive security measures that screened anyone entering a building. So now, only large gatherings such as football and basketball games where security guards and metal detectors are in place can prohibit firearms.
Most of the state’s students living on campuses are too young to legally pack pistols in their waistbands, but if the state lowers that age, the people who live on campus will be able to carry their guns as well.
Another bill progressing through the Kansas Legislature would require any public school that wants to offer firearms training to use a program created by the National Rifle Association, the country’s powerful pro-gun lobby.
Backers of that measure argue the “Eddie Eagle” curriculum teaches children to avoid guns they see and to alert an adult when they happen on a firearm. Critics say the program is not proven to actually change children’s behavior, and that using the NRA’s program gives the group a way to bolster its public image.
Another Kansas bill would ban bump stocks that allow a semi-automatic rifle to fire rounds nearly as quickly as a fully automatic weapon. That issue came into national focus after a gunman used bump stocks to mow down scores of victims at a Las Vegas musical festival last year. The bill is not expected to advance out of committee.
Gun-control advocates have some optimism that a bill allowing police to temporarily take away guns from people in domestic violence situations or during mental health crises.
“We’ve got law enforcement pushing for it,” said Loren Stanton, president of the Kansas Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “We think it has a chance.”
Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter, @ScottCanon.