The new permitless concealed carry law is set to go into effect in Kentucky next month, but authorities are encouraging people to complete safety training and educate themselves on the law when it comes to firearms.
Under the new law, people ages 21 and older who are not prohibited by law from owning a gun can legally carry a concealed firearm without a permit, though gun owners may still obtain a permit.
Kentucky will become the 16th state to allow permitless concealed carry.
The bill that was signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin was backed by the National Rifle Association, and proponents of the bill argued that it would better enable law-abiding gun owners to protect themselves.
The measure passed both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly over opposition from several groups, including the Kentucky State Fraternal Order of Police and gun-control advocacy organization Moms Demand Action, that cited safety concerns as a reason for their opposition.
Under the permitting process, applicants have to undergo a background check and take a six-hour gun safety and training class requiring them to pass a written test and hit a life-size target with at least 11 of 20 shots from a distance of 21 feet.
Permit holders have also been required to pay a $60 fee, with $20 going to the sheriff in their jurisdiction and the rest going to the state.
Renewals of permits are processed at the sheriff’s office.
Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower has recommended that current permit holders not let their permits lapse.
Thirty-five other states recognize a concealed carry permit from Kentucky, and Hightower said Bowling Green’s proximity to Tennessee, which recognizes a Kentucky permit, should serve to persuade gun owners to keep their concealed carry permits up to date.
“If you choose to carry, I would strongly recommend carrying with the concealed carry permit,” Hightower said.
The next four to six months will bear out whether Warren County will see a decrease in the number of concealed carry permit holders once the new law goes into effect, Hightower said.
“I would guesstimate a 15 to 20 percent reduction in the number of people going in to obtain permits, but I’ve heard from a lot of people who’ve said they want to have the permit so they can carry in other states,” Hightower said.
Jerry Corbitt, a Bowling Green firearms instructor at Sherwood’s Guns and Indoor Shooting Range, said he anticipates seeing a “small decline” in the number of people who take his classes, which are held at least once each month.
His next class, scheduled for June 8, is about half full.
“A lot of people want to take the classes because they want to know the laws, which is good,” Corbitt said. “Some customers are paranoid about people carrying with no prior training or information. ... I’ve heard some younger people comment that they’re going to buy a gun and start carrying in July, and I kind of stress upon them to be up on the laws.”
Hightower said that even without going through the permitting process, new gun owners should seek firearms training courses.
“More training is always better,” Hightower said. “Even if you conceal carry without a permit, it’s important to know the legal aspects of gun ownership when it comes to use of force and when it’s appropriate to defend yourself and your property.”