When Kentucky’s new concealed carry law goes into effect, residents will generally be able to carry a concealed weapon with no required safety training or licensing.
Senate Bill 150, which Gov. Matt Bevin signed last week, allows unlicensed gun owners to carry concealed weapons anywhere they were previously allowed to carry with a license, and anywhere open carry is allowed.
Safety trainers worried that forgoing the previously mandated training could leave some gun owners unaware of relevant laws or ill-prepared to handle a self-defense situation.
A concealed carry license issued by Kentucky is currently honored by all adjoining states except Illinois, which allows licensed Kentuckians to travel through the state with their firearms.
When Kentucky stops requiring permits for concealed carry in a few months, those who opt not to procure a license will not be allowed to carry in other states, unless they have a license from that state.
That’s not the only potential legal issue, said Nicole Cressler, the chief training officer at Range America. “I think that people are going to find themselves not knowing when they can carry legally,” she said.
For instance, guns are not allowed in federal buildings, post offices, schools, government meetings, bars or child care facilities, among other locations.
Such facilities have signs posted and some have security measures designed to keep firearms out, but Cressler said a small slip can have significant consequences.
“I think that someone who doesn’t know that is going to walk up in a post office concealed carrying, somebody’s going to see them, turn them in and they’re going to catch a felony really quick,” she said.
Private day care and health facilities, as well as postsecondary educational facilities, including colleges and technical schools, may also restrict the carrying of firearms.
Cressler’s Concealed Carry of a Deadly Weapon course teaches students about such restrictions. She said she’s already seen a slight drop in her class attendance since the bill passed.
Cressler said she’s seen firsthand how even longtime gun owners are surprised at the things they learn in a concealed carry class.
“People who buy a gun and think that they’re ready to carry a firearm aren’t necessarily ready to carry a firearm,” she said.
Those with current concealed carry licenses will not be affected by law change, and Cressler said she expects people to continue to get their licenses if only to be able to take their firearms to other states.
The license requires gun safety training, a background check and a $60 fee.
Kentucky currently allows licensees from any other state to carry concealed weapons within its borders.
The law also doesn’t change the legal requirements for gun ownership, including the 21-year minimum age limit and restrictions against ownership by convicted felons or those under felony indictment, the mentally ill, and those convicted of domestic violence or under a domestic violence order, among other restrictions.
Cressler said she usually sees about 25 percent of people who take her class go on to get their license, which she found encouraging, as it showed interest in safety even among those not planning to carry concealed firearms.
“I think they’re here to know the laws. I think they’re eager to learn, eager to train,” she said.
She encouraged even those who decline to get a license to find a class that would train them on safety and self-defense techniques.
“Training to be in a self-defense situation is different than just shooting on a target out in a field somewhere,” she said.
“It is a huge responsibility. There’s not a restart button. You can’t pull that bullet back.”