Police chiefs from nine Kansas universities and colleges Thursday came out against a measure that would allow concealed handguns in government buildings.
“We are absolutely convinced the risk created by firearms on campus exceeds any actual benefit for self-protection,” said Richard Johnson, chief of police at the University of Kansas Medical Center. “It is our professional conviction that firearms do not enhance university security, but will contradict many of the best practices already in place.”
Johnson represented a group that included police chiefs from the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Wichita State, Pittsburg State, Johnson County Community College and Kansas City Kansas Community College.
They appeared before a legislative committee that concluded two days of hearings on a bill that would allow people authorized to carry concealed handguns to take their weapons into a wide range of state and local government buildings.
In Missouri, the law currently bans concealed weapons in courthouses, schools, arenas, stadiums, riverboat casinos and meetings of governmental bodies, unless the carrier is a member of that body.
Supporters of the proposed Kansas law argue that they are trying to preserve Second Amendment rights of Kansans to carry guns while also giving them the ability to protect themselves.
“I do think the fundamental Second Amendment right to protect myself can’t be abridged,” said state Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican. “It is unrealistic to presume that people are safe in public buildings and university campus buildings just because there is a sign posted on the door that says concealed carry is not permitted.”
There are 39,377 people who are licensed to carry concealed handguns in Kansas, including 6,760 in Johnson County and 1,700 in Wyandotte County. Public buildings with security measures in place to keep guns off the premises would be exempted from the bill. However, critics said that puts colleges in a dilemma.
Johnson County Community College Trustee Melody Rayl said the college is well prepared to deal with a shooter on campus. She urged lawmakers to let local governments make decisions about whether guns should be allowed inside their buildings.
“The question of whether Johnson County Community College students should be permitted to carry concealed firearms within our classrooms should be decided locally by elected officials who have been entrusted to make such decisions by the citizens we serve,” she said.
The committee didn’t act on the bill Thursday, but it could come up again next week.
The committee’s chairman, Rep. Steve Brunk, a Bel Aire Republican, said society has shifted to a point where people need to be able to protect themselves.
“We’ve relied on government for a long time to be able to protect us,” Brunk said. “In what seems to be an ever increasing and more violent society ... there’s a higher recognition that people not only have a right, but a responsibility to protect themselves.”