An effort to keep concealed handguns out of certain public hospitals failed Wednesday as lawmakers debated how far gun rights go in Kansas.
A divided House Federal and State Affairs Committee failed to move the bill to the full House, striking another blow to efforts this session to change gun laws in Kansas.
The decision came a day after the committee started debating the legislation, which would have only banned concealed handguns from buildings used by the University of Kansas Health System.
Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican and chairman of the committee, refused to break an 11-11 tie vote and let the bill advance to the House floor.
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Earlier in the debate, Barker had put forward an amendment that would have expanded the exemption to all public hospitals and community mental health centers.
“With great respect to the Second Amendment, I think this is a reasonable approach,” Barker said.
That amendment failed on a voice vote.
Back in 2013, the Kansas Legislature loosened gun laws and gave college campuses and public hospitals four years to prepare for concealed handguns to be allowed in their buildings.
That exemption ends at the start of July.
Under state law, the buildings can still keep concealed handguns banned if they have security measures, like metal detectors and armed guards. KU health officials have said it would be expensive to put that security in place.
Leaders with the University of Kansas Health System asked lawmakers to continue allowing them to be exempt from the law during a hearing earlier this month.
“It is unacceptable The University of Kansas Health System facilities will be the only hospital in the Kansas City area being forced to allow concealed weapons,” Bob Page, president and CEO of the health system, said in a statement Wednesday.
Hospital officials told lawmakers they were concerned that allowing the guns would hurt the hospital’s standing and the safety of its patients.
“We will continue to do everything possible to maintain a safe environment, even after the July 1, 2017 date for allowing concealed weapons,” Page said in the statement. “But, we feel an obligation to keep fighting concealed weapons in our facilities.”
But Rep. Blake Carpenter, a Derby Republican, said the proposed legislation infringes on Second Amendment rights.
“If the government does not trust law-abiding citizens, then we have a deeper problem,” Carpenter said.
Rep. Stephanie Clayton, a Republican from Overland Park, supported the legislation to keep guns out of hospitals.
“I think if we continue to trust our fellow Americans to do the right thing, that we will see more trust and a better society rather than conducting ourselves with fear,” Clayton said.
The original hospital bill was a more narrow version of similar legislation the committee considered earlier this session that would have kept concealed handguns out of public hospitals and college campus buildings.
That effort to repeal campus carry has yet to come before the House committee for a vote.