Kansas lawmakers seek to undo campus concealed carry law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A few Kansas lawmakers are seeking to undo a law that will allow people to carry concealed guns into colleges and hospitals starting in July.

The lawmakers are seeking to permanently exempt state universities and community colleges from a law passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2013 that expanded the rights of gun owners age 21 and older to carry concealed weapons into public buildings. Campuses had been allowed to continue to ban concealed guns until July of this year. Faculty, students and administrators at state college campuses have expressed strong opposition to allowing concealed guns on campuses.

Overland Park Republican Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Wichita Democratic Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau and Mission Hills Republican Sen. Barbara Bollier are hoping their proposal to allow campuses to continue to ban concealed weapon will pass now that the Legislature is more moderate. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed the original measure.

“Gov. Brownback supports Second Amendment rights and will continue to support Second Amendment rights,” Brownback spokeswoman Melika Willoughby said when asked whether the governor will support the bill. “He will give due consideration to any bill that reaches his desk, but he is currently focused on working with the legislature to pass a balanced budget.”

Clayton said her constituents have been vocal about their concern with guns on college campuses. After taxes and education, she said concealed carry was the issue she has heard about most.

“When you hear something that is that much in the forefront from your constituents, the only option is to make sure that you do the right thing,” Clayton said.

Faculty and student organizations on university campuses generally have been strongly opposed to concealed guns on campus. Last month, elected representatives of faculty, staff and students at the University of Kansas adopted resolutions opposing the campus concealed carry law. A survey of faculty and staff at most of the state universities by the Docking Institute at Fort Hays State University found that 70 percent of respondents don’t want guns on campus.

Travis Couture-Lovelady, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association and former state representative, said those numbers likely didn’t line up with statewide opinion. Proponents of the legislation, including the NRA, said it allows people to protect themselves from potential violence.

The law allows public buildings to prohibit firearms if they can provide security measures to prevent all guns from coming in.

“If you can’t guarantee security via metal detectors or armed guards in these public buildings, you shouldn’t disarm a law-abiding citizen,” said Couture-Lovelady, who supported the law when he was a House member.

Several cities, health providers and universities have said that’s too expensive.

Pittsburg Republican Sen. Jake LaTurner, chairman of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, echoed Couture-Lovelady.

“Anybody that believes that that sticker provides real security is fooling themselves,” LaTurner said, referencing signs on buildings that prohibit guns. “It’s a false sense of security.”

LaTurner said he would continue to support the 2013 legislation but that he would consider any bill introduced in his committee.

Clayton argued that alcohol, stress and depression on college campuses don’t mix well with guns. Joe Harrington, president of University Senate at the University of Kansas, said he was concerned about likelihood of suicides. Besides the physical threat, he said the presence of guns could make students fearful to discuss divisive subjects.

Harrington also cited a study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that says “self-defensive gun use” is no more effective than other responses from victims attempting to protect themselves.

But Topeka Republican Rep. Ken Corbet argued that people are likely already carrying illegal guns onto campuses and students should be able to protect themselves.

“I would rather fail protecting myself than be assassinated without a chance,” Corbet said.