Gun laws in America have historically been discriminatory, and in many ways, they still are. From the start, the U.S. banned African Americans from owning guns under the Black codes and Jim Crow laws, leaving them unable to defend themselves from White supremacist attacks.
Wanting to protect themselves from intimidation, civil rights activists fought for African Americans to have the right to arm themselves. Even after African Americans acquired firearms, oppressive laws still came about, like “stop and frisk” and gun sweeps, which further criminalized Black men and women.
“[As African Americans], we know the rules and how they apply differently to us,” said Eric Bowie, treasurer for the Kansas City chapter of the National African American Gun Association (NAAGA). That’s why it’s so important for Black gun owners to understand state gun laws to minimize harm, risk of a lawsuit, and to save your life.
Missouri and Kansas are both permit-less carry states, which means as long as you are legally able to possess a gun, you can conceal carry and open carry without a permit or training. To openly carry or possess a firearm in both states, you must be at least 18 years old, but to conceal carry you must be 19 years old in Missouri and 21 years old in Kansas.
Although both states allow concealed carry without a permit, neither state permits concealed carry in gun-restricted areas including law enforcement offices, courthouses, post offices, airport-controlled areas and amusement parks.
It’s still wise to apply for a concealed carry weapon permit, despite not needing one to carry. You could still face fines and possible jail time if you conceal carry in a restricted area without a permit. In Missouri, a violation could mean up to six months of jail time and fines up to $500. But if you conceal carry in a restricted area with a CCW permit, you will just be asked to leave, unless you refuse, in which case, you could be charged with trespassing.
Also watch for cities that may have local ordinances preventing open carry, despite the state’s law. In Missouri, if you have a concealed carry license, the local ordinance would not apply to you.
Obtaining a concealed
To apply for a CCW permit, Missouri and Kansas residents apply through the sheriff’s office in their county. In both Missouri and Kansas, you must have completed and have proof of a concealed carry training class from a certified trainer, and have a valid driver’s license.
Traveling with a
For Missouri, all bordering states honor Missouri’s concealed carry permit, except Illinois. Missouri recognizes concealed weapons permits from every state that issues them.
All the states bordering Kansas also honor their concealed carry permit and the state accepts other permits as long as you’re at least 21.
While traveling, be sure to double check that your firearm is lawful in that jurisdiction.
Who Cannot Own a Gun?
Missouri and Kansas have similar laws for who cannot own a gun. If you have been convicted of a felony, are an addict or user of a controlled substance, are mentally incompetent, have been dishonorably discharged from the military or are not a US citizen, you may not be able to own a firearm.
In Kansas, if you have been convicted of a domestic violence offense in the last five years, you also may not be able to own a firearm.
Missouri and Kansas both have the Castle Doctrine, or defense of habitation law, which allows gun owners to use deadly force against a home intruder who intends to cause them or another person harm. Both states’ Castle Doctrine only covers threats against people, not property.
Stand Your Ground
Both Missouri and Kansas have Stand Your Ground laws, which means gun owners can defend themselves in public if they are under imminent threat of death. Neither state has a duty to retreat law, so it’s legal to defend yourself with deadly force, even if it is possible to retreat to safety.
Using deadly force
Kevin Jamison, an attorney based in Gladstone, MO, with extensive experience with self-defense cases suggests only using deadly or hazardous force if you have a reasonable belief there is risk of death, serious body injury, rape, kidnapping or arson or burglary of an occupied building.
If you have to use deadly force, Jamison says not to leave the scene, change the scene or make a statement to police. When the police arrive, remain silent, say you were attacked and that you’re innocent, show the evidence, ask for a lawyer and do not resist.
Overall, Jamison suggests avoiding using deadly force if at all possible.
NAAGA suggests African-American gun owners also acquire insurance to ensure extra coverage in case use of force is necessary.
For a list of CCW trainings in Missouri, go to the Western Missouri Shooting Alliance website: http://www.wmsa.net/?page_id=11 or email KC NAAGA: email@example.com for more information.
Jazzlyn Johnson is a Report for America corps member based at The Community Voice covering Kansas City’s African-American community.