BISMARCK-North Dakota gun owners would be able to carry a concealed firearm without a permit under legislation introduced by a group of Republican lawmakers.

Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, introduced legislation Friday, Jan. 6, to allow people who are at least 21 years old to carry "any firearm or dangerous weapon concealed unless otherwise prohibited by law."

Currently, North Dakota offers Class 1 and Class 2 licenses for carrying a concealed weapon. Class 1 licenses are recognized by 39 states and are for people who are at least 21 years old while Class 2 licenses are recognized by 25 states and can be obtained by people who are at least 18 years old, according to the North Dakota Attorney General's website.

Becker said his legislation would keep the permitting process in place.

"Many people, including me, would want to be able to have reciprocity with other states," he said. "If this passes, I could conceal carry without a permit in North Dakota, (but) I can't anywhere else."

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Becker said the bill doesn't change where firearms can be carried or change whether felons can possess a gun.

The Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which is a part of the North Dakota Attorney General's Office, processes the applications and issues concealed weapon licenses. Liz Brocker, spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office, said they don't generally comment on proposed legislation.

The number of active concealed weapon licenses increased to 38,341 in the 2013-15 biennium from 25,857 in the previous two-year cycle, according to a report from the Attorney General's Office.

Bruce Burkett, lobbyist for the North Dakota Peace Officers Association, didn't offer an opinion on the legislation Monday morning. But he raised a number of questions about the change, including whether it would affect how officers conduct routine traffic stops.

"This doesn't increase the risk or danger for police officers at all," Becker said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Kelly Armstrong, R-Dickinson, said he supports the legislation, but he wants to make sure reciprocity with other states is unaffected.

House Minority Leader Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, said he wants to strike a balance between gun rights and public safety. He added the training involved in obtaining a concealed weapon license helps people understand their responsibilities.

"I think everyone that I've spoken to who's had it, myself included, really benefits from going through the permitting process," he said. "I would like to find some way we can incorporate education if we're going to discuss any changes to this law."

House Bill 1169 was referred to the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee but hasn't had a hearing yet.