In an effort to prepare students and faculty for when concealed guns can be carried on public college campuses in Kansas, the University of Kansas held an information and listening forum.
Wednesday afternoon’s town-hall-style forum is the second one to be held on the Lawrence campus before the state law goes into effect for colleges and universities July 1.
KU Public Safety Chief Chris Keary, Provost Neeli Bendapudi and Mike Williams, a KU professor who helped the university establish rules for carrying a concealed weapon on campus, lead the forum and attempted to answer a host of questions from faculty, students and staff.
“We are trying to make KU the safe place we want it to be,” Williams said.
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It was 2013 when Kansas passed a law that made it legal to carry a concealed weapon into public buildings, including the more than 800 buildings on the six public campuses governed by the Kansas Board of Regents. But universities had a temporary four-year exemption from the law. The exemption allowed the regents to prohibit guns of any kind in their campus buildings.
According to the law, the only way to stop students and faculty from carrying a handgun into class holstered under a jacket or tucked inside a backpack would be to install security measures and security staff at building entrances, which most likely would be cost prohibitive.
KU officials have said they will set up metal detectors on a temporary basis at university arenas and stadiums to keep guns out of major sporting events.
However, lawmakers are currently debating legislation that could keep campuses gun-free.
At Wednesday’s forum, several faculty stepped up to microphones to say that having students walking around campus and through university halls with concealed weapons makes them feel less safe.
“Isn’t safety my fundamental right?” one faculty member asked. “And that is what this whole thing is about, why these people want guns so they feel safe. But instead, they are infringing on my right to feel safe.”
A math professor wanted to know what kind of insurance the university would be providing faculty “now that this job has become a lot more dangerous to do.”
Other questions had more to do with the policy itself and what the committee that developed it may have neglected to include.
A student wanted to know why international students and faculty had not been better informed that they would not be permitted to carry a concealed weapon on campus. The student who asked the question said she was concerned that restriction would make those students “feel more vulnerable on campus.”
One student wondered whether the university would provide training for students who carried guns. State law does not require a qualified person who is at least 21 years old to have a permit or training to carry a concealed weapon.
“We aren’t going to teach anyone to shoot a gun, but we will do all we can to teach you how to function in an environment where guns may be present,” Keary said.
Another student mentioned that not all classrooms look like a traditional college classroom or lecture hall: In some cases it’s a stage, a mat room, a lab or a field where students are moving heavy equipment. He wanted to know whether a professor could deduct points from a student’s grade if his or her weapon is exposed during class.
Bendapudi and Williams said they were making a list of some of the questions and would find the answers to those they were unable to answer during the session.