Government & Politics

Kansas House poised to debate guns on college campuses and in state hospitals

Photo for The Washington Post by Cooper Neill

The Kansas House appears poised to debate again whether concealed firearms should be allowed on college campuses.

Publicly-funded universities and hospitals will be required to allow concealed guns in their facilities starting in July under a law the Kansas Legislature passed in 2013 that opened most public buildings to firearms.

Legislation that would indefinitely extend exemptions for universities, hospitals and community health centers has failed to advance in either chamber this session, but a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats will attempt to pass the legislation in the Kansas House on Tuesday.

House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, made a procedural motion Monday to bring an unrelated gun bill to the floor for debate.

If Ward’s motion gets 63 votes Tuesday, it’ll open an opportunity for lawmakers to bring the legislation barring guns from college campuses and hospitals as amendments. Those amendments would only be germane to a bill that deals with firearms under the Legislature’s rules.

“There’s a lot of people in the state of Kansas who are concerned about gun safety in these facilities and want to know where their representatives stand,” Ward said in a phone call.

Ward accused GOP leadership of putting up roadblocks to the legislation throughout the session. “We’re going try to get around that tomorrow,” he said Monday.

House Majority Leader Don Hineman, a Dighton Republican, said there have been discussions and negotiations to find a solution that would pass into law and address concerns over concealed carry in hospitals.

"We're still involved in those discussions, trying to find a solution that is acceptable to both the other chamber and to the governor," Hineman said. "We're reluctant to just have a wide open debate and amendment session that produces a bill that has no chance of becoming law."

The underlying bill, HB 2042, deals with the recognition of out-of-state concealed carry permits in Kansas.

Kansas eliminated a requirement that a person undergo training and a background check to obtain a concealed carry permit in 2015, but it has continued to maintain reciprocity with other states where permits are required.

Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Republican who has spearheaded efforts to prevent guns on campuses, said that she was optimistic that an amendment to restrict guns at the state psychiatric hospitals in Osawatomie and Larned would pass with bipartisan support.

However, she was less optimistic that an amendment to restrict guns on college campuses could obtain the 63 votes needed to pass. “And as a parent who is looking at colleges for a child who will soon be of age I find that very concerning,” she said.

Clayton said that lawmakers on both sides of the issue have been eager to have this debate, leaving little doubt that Ward’s motion to force a debate would pass.

“Will this be a nailbiter? Yes, because even more moderate Republicans tend to vote for their guns,” Clayton said. “I’m cautiously optimistic, but I’m also concerned.”

Moriah Day, director of the Kansas State Rifle Association, said his organization is “adamantly opposed to any efforts to restrict lawful concealed carry on our campuses.” He said the current law already gives colleges the ability prevent guns on campus if they adopt “adequate security measures” such as metal detectors and armed guards.

“If they’re going to disarm you the logic is that they should make sure that you stay safe,” he said.

Contributing: Hunter Woodall of the Star

Bryan Lowry: 816-234-4077, @BryanLowry3