LOUISVILLE -- Starting Thursday, anyone who can legally possess a gun in Kentucky can carry it around under a coat, in a purse or hidden in a hip holster -- no permit required.
Senate Bill 150, which was signed into law on March 11 and takes effect June 27, eliminates the six-hour gun-safety training course, background check and $60 application fee that Kentucky previously required.
It also removes an exclusion that prevented Kentuckians from getting a concealed-carry permit if they owed more than a year of child support or had misdemeanor alcohol or drug convictions within three years.
Kentucky joins 14 other states that have passed similar laws eliminating the need for a permit to carry concealed.
The change loosens yet another firearms restriction in a state already known for having some of the nation's most liberal gun laws.
That's fine with proponents, who say that eliminating the concealed-carry law will have little impact since Kentuckians could already "open carry" -- meaning the gun is in plain sight -- without a permit.
"Law-abiding citizens who are authorized to carry a firearm should not have to ask permission from the government or pay a recurrent fee in order to exercise their Second Amendment right," said state Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, one of the bill's sponsors, who added that it is wise for anyone who plans to carry to have basic safety training.
The law doesn't change who's eligible to carry or the places where guns are allowed.
There are exceptions. Per Kentucky law, concealed weapons still won't be allowed in courthouses, prisons, sheriff offices, jails and prisons. They're also not allowed in drinking establishments -- or in the bar area in restaurants that serve alcohol.
Concealed weapons also are banned in daycare facilities -- unless a homeowner has a registered child-care facility in their own home -- and elementary and secondary schools unless given permission by school authorities. Even so, opponents, including some in law enforcement, fear that the prospect of more guns and untrained gun users who no longer need a permit to carry concealed will lead to an increase in violence and crime.
And some studies suggest that states that have allowed concealed carry have seen violent crime rise.
"It creates questions about officer safety and adds a new level of caution that officers have to take," said Jesse Halladay, a spokeswoman for Louisville Metro Police Department.
Even though the law eliminates the need in Kentucky, the permitting process isn't going away. Residents will still need a permit to carry concealed in states that recognize Kentucky's 1998 law that established concealed carry permits, according to the Kentucky State Police.
That means that you will need a Kentucky permit to carry concealed in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
The remaining states do not recognize Kentucky's concealed-carry permit or have different rules altogether.
Kentucky state Rep. Robert Goforth, R-East Bernstadt, who voted in favor of the concealed-carry bill, said he is encouraging people to continue getting and renewing concealed-carry permits.
"We need to urge all adults who choose to carry a firearm to make sure they are properly trained before carrying openly or concealed," Goforth said. "They need to know their firearm before they decide to carry it."
Violent crime increases, study says
Recent studies show that states with right-to-carry concealed laws have seen increases in violent crime since those laws went into effect.
From May 2007 to January 2017, there were 31 instances nationwide during which a concealed-carry permit holder killed three or more individuals in a single incident.
A 2016 Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study found that violent crime was more than 12% higher in right-to-carry states and it increased by 1.1% each year. In the three years after states adopted right-to-carry laws, violent crime increased by 6.5%, the study found, determining that the laws increase crime even if permit holders aren't the ones committing it.
"I think most Americans feel like what a person does in their home doesn't matter. A home is their castle," said David Chipman, a former Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent for 25 years and senior policy adviser at Gifford's Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "But once you travel outside the home, you have a commitment to the greater community."
Chipman said balancing the right to carry a gun with the responsibility to society that you don't hurt someone has been lost in policy decisions. He called Kentucky's decision to eliminate the need for a permit to carry concealed "reckless," especially when there's research that shows more people will be harmed as a result.
"I don't think that requiring someone to be trained to carry a gun would actually inhibit them from defending themselves," Chipman said.
Stephen McBride, Kentucky's Concealed Carry Coalition vice president, told the Courier Journal he supports training and gun safety, but the new law changes very little.
"People can openly carry a gun without training. What difference does it make if you put a little piece of cloth over it?" McBride said.
"The NRA is the largest organization in the world to train gun owners," he added. "Why would they support a bill that would put them out of business? This will increase the number of licenses in Kentucky and the number of people wanting to take training."