Government & Politics

Campus concealed carry to be Kansas Legislature topic; Brownback unswayed

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback talked to reporters Wednesday in Topeka.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback talked to reporters Wednesday in Topeka.

A push to repeal or delay the state’s concealed carry handgun policy for college campuses would likely face opposition from Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

Brownback said Wednesday that he isn’t thinking about possible changes to the policy that was signed into law in 2013.

But incoming state Sen. Barbara Bollier said there is a bill “ready to go” that would try to repeal the law, which allows handguns on campuses starting July 1.

“I’m not inclined to think about that,” Brownback told reporters Wednesday about changes to the law. “I support Second Amendment rights. It’s a constitutional right that people have. I think people are trying to put in appropriate measures to accompany it. But I’ve been a long and consistent supporter of Second Amendment rights. I’m not re-thinking my support for the Second Amendment.”

Under the law, people age 21 and older will be able to have a handgun on campuses like the University of Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State. The policy also impacts other public schools like Johnson County Community College.

Buildings with security measures, like metal detectors and security staff, would be able to keep the concealed guns out under the law. But those security changes would likely be costly and expensive.

A Fort Hays State University survey of employees in the Kansas Board of Regents system published this year found that 70 percent wanted to see the law changed to keep handguns out of campus buildings.

Bollier, a state representative who was elected to the state Senate in November, said she was disappointed to hear the governor’s comments.

“The universities, the students, the parents, the people of Kansas do not want guns on campuses,” Bollier said. “And people still will have a right to carry. There need to be limitations about where.”

The Mission Hills Republican said the legislation would likely start out as a repeal of the policy, but at the least she’d like to see the law delayed.

Brownback’s comment Wednesday could mean that lawmakers would need strong support from both the House and Senate if they wish to make a change.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said he was doubtful that a bill like the one Bollier talked about Wednesday could pass in the Senate.

And even if it did pass in both the Senate and the House, the Topeka Democrat said he didn’t think it would have enough votes and support to overcome a Brownback veto.

“If he vetoes the bill, you have to have 84 votes in the House and 27 votes in the Senate to override the veto,” Hensley said. “I think that’s insurmountable.”

There had been talk that a more moderate Legislature may be more willing to have a discussion about campus carry. The incoming Legislature includes large classes of freshman lawmakers in both the House and Senate who are expected to push the statehouse in a more moderate direction.

Incoming House majority leader Don Hineman, a Republican from Dighton, said he felt there was an “appetite” to consider the question of campus carry in the House. It’s a good discussion to have, he said.

“I think there probably is a greater appetite within the incoming Legislature to at least have a discussion about it than what the previous Legislature would have been inclined to do,” Hineman said. “That said, it’s too early to predict the outcome. It really is a debate among competing concepts of rights.”

Incoming Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine agreed that there likely will be a campus carry discussion in the Legislature.

“I’m sure there will be a bill at some point and I’m sure there will be discussions, but I don’t know where those discussions will come from at this point and I don’t know how much support it will have,” the Emporia Republican said. “But I’m confident there will be that discussion.”

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw