Government & Politics

Kansas Senate panel rejects bill to keep guns off campuses

A Kansas Senate committee rejected a bill that would have permanently exempted colleges and medical centers from having to allow concealed weapons on their premises.
A Kansas Senate committee rejected a bill that would have permanently exempted colleges and medical centers from having to allow concealed weapons on their premises. File photo by the Wichita Eagle

A bill to permanently exempt public colleges and medical centers from a requirement to allow concealed guns on their premises was rejected by a Kansas Senate committee Tuesday.

The vote is a setback for activists who hoped to prevent firearms from being allowed on college campuses.

“We are disappointed that they sided with the extremist gun lobby instead of the students, faculty and concerned parents who testified just days ago,” said Jo Ella Hoye, spokeswoman for the Kansas chapter of Moms Demand Action, a group that pushes for stricter gun laws.

“It’s a setback,” said Hoye, a Lenexa resident. “ ‘Moms’ will be back tomorrow, and we still have hope that this fight is not over.”

An identical bill is scheduled for a hearing in a House committee Wednesday.

Kansas passed a law in 2013 requiring public buildings to allow firearms. College campuses and public medical centers were granted a four-year exemption that will end in July.

Senate Bill 53 would have permanently extended that exemption. The bill failed to advance out of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee on a voice vote.

Sen. Jacob LaTurner, the Pittsburg Republican who chairs the committee, said he opposes extending the exemption for colleges.

“I’m comfortable with the vote that I made in 2013. I think it allowed enough time for folks to make accommodations,” LaTurner said.

When the 2013 law was passed, a person could carry a concealed weapon only if he or she had gone through training and background checks to obtain a permit. In 2015, Kansas eliminated these requirements and enabled any person to carry a concealed gun regardless of training.

LaTurner said the 2015 change does not factor into his decision-making.

Two Wichita Democrats, Sens. Lynn Rogers and Oletha Faust-Goudeau, were the only two committee members present who supported sending the bill to the full Senate.

“We’re trying to figure out what we want to do at this point,” Rogers said after the meeting.

Another member of the committee, Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine, an Emporia Republican, said he would have supported the measure but was attending a Senate leadership meeting on the budget.

“It’s very disappointing,” Longbine said. “I think that’s something that’s big enough that it should have gone to the entire floor and the Senate should have had a full debate on it.”

There are a few options for reviving the bill on the Senate side. The bill can be pulled out of committee if 24 lawmakers vote in favor of doing so. It would still require 27 votes in the 40-member to advance the bill for a debate, under the Senate rules.

A lawmaker in the committee could also make a motion to reconsider the bill for a second committee vote. LaTurner said that he would have the power as chairman to determine whether such a motion would be in order.

“It’s not dead for the session,” Longbine said. “I’m sure there will be other bites at the apple.”

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3

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