Government & Politics

Another try to rein in Kansas law allowing concealed weapons on college campuses

The Kansas House held a hearing Wednesday about a bill that would permanently exempt college campuses, certain hospitals and community mental health centers from having to follow the 2013 law allowing concealed handguns.
The Kansas House held a hearing Wednesday about a bill that would permanently exempt college campuses, certain hospitals and community mental health centers from having to follow the 2013 law allowing concealed handguns. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Parents and students tried again Wednesday to persuade lawmakers to change a law that will allow guns on Kansas college campuses.

But others said the law, set to take effect in July, is just fine the way it is.

A House bill introduced by a Johnson County lawmaker would permanently exempt college campuses, certain hospitals and community mental health centers from having to follow the 2013 law allowing concealed handguns.

Margaret Kramar, who said she’s taught English at the University of Kansas, said it was up to adults to protect the kids and students.

“Please do not add a gun to the powder keg of alcohol, drugs, breaking up with a boyfriend or failing the bar exam,” Kramar told lawmakers.

A Kansas Senate committee voted down a similar bill Tuesday that would also exempt college campuses from the law.

Many of the same people who testified about the Senate legislation last week also spoke to House lawmakers Wednesday. Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Republican, introduced the House bill.

Students, education advocates, parents and teachers said changing the law was in the interest of public safety.

Other students, a former lawmaker, the Kansas State Rifle Association and the National Rifle Association said they were opposed to the law change.

“Sticking your head in the sand and hoping guns won’t come in is not enough,” said Travis Couture-Lovelady, a lobbyist with the NRA.

Kaitlyn Stump, a graduate student at Kansas State University, said she worried campus carry would burden students and make them concerned about their safety.

“I urge you to support HB 2074 and continue to allow students to be students and not safety officers,” Stump said.

A handful of students who did not testify Wednesday but attended the hearing said afterward that they opposed the bill that would change the law.

Andrew Lee, a high school senior from Shawnee, said he plans to go to KU.

The 18-year-old said he was passionate about campus carry and believes the U.S. Constitution gives him the right to carry a concealed weapon.

“I think it would be a disservice to the student body,” Lee said about the chance the law could be changed.

Supporters of the change have argued the law needs to be revisited because of changes lawmakers passed in 2015 that allowed Kansans 21 and older to carry concealed firearms without a license.

Though the campus-carry portion of the law would take effect later this year, the legislation was passed in 2013.

Colleges were given four years to prepare for the change. They can continue to keep guns out of a building if security measures are put in place.

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw

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