The winds shifted ever so subtly in Kansas this week when majorities in both the state House and Senate agreed to pass a bill to keep concealed guns out of the state’s public hospitals, its 26 community mental health centers and adult care homes.
Guns and the mentally ill and physically fragile just don’t mix.
Gov. Sam Brownback should have no qualms about adding his signature to the bill. It’s a thoughtful piece of legislation that addressed the legitimate concerns of doctors, patients, the psychiatric community and the public.
The bill tweaks a 2013 law that is set to go into effect on July 1. Four years ago, lawmakers passed legislation to allow concealed carry in all public buildings unless those facilities could ensure, through the use of metal detectors and guards, that no one would enter with a weapon.
The idea was that if public spaces were open to those who might cause mayhem with a firearm, then others should have the right to protect themselves by carrying a gun as well.
The costs would be prohibitive to install either an armed guard or a metal detector at each and every one. And the sprawling grounds, which are home to the University of Kansas Hospital, already have a staff of commissioned police officers who can boast of a 90-second response time.
Numerous amendments to the law were offered. But many were not feasible. In the end, most lawmakers agreed — over the objections of the National Rifle Association — to simply exempt public hospitals from the 2013 law.
The vote in the House on Thursday was especially noteworthy. It was 91 to 33. Many stalwart gun-rights advocates saw the wisdom of this measure. They recognized that supporting gun rights and keeping weapons out of public hospitals and mental health centers are not mutually exclusive.
The bill checks several boxes. It will save the taxpayers money. The anticipated cost just to keep firearms out of two state psychiatric hospitals and two other locations for the developmentally disabled was $12.5 million for metal detectors and other security measures and another $11.7 million each year to pay for armed guards.
After studying this issue and exploring an array of options, a majority of the Legislature took a measured step to improve the concealed-carry law.
With his signature, Brownback should deliver the final stamp of approval.