An attempt by House Democrats to roll back a law allowing concealed firearms on college campuses was derailed Tuesday as moderate Republicans sided with conservatives to keep a debate from the House floor.
As it stands, concealed firearms will still be allowed on college campuses and in public hospitals in Kansas starting this summer. The 2013 law that allowed handguns in most public buildings gave those institutions a four-year exemption.
Moderate Republicans and Democrats made a flurry of attempts earlier this session to permanently extend the exemption. But those efforts struggled to make it out of committee and have been unable to make it to the floor of either chamber for a vote.
That led the House’s leading Democrat to use a procedural move Tuesday to try to bring another unrelated gun bill to the House floor for debate.
House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, needed 63 votes to bring a bill dealing with out-of-state concealed carry permits to a discussion in the House. If he had succeeded, lawmakers could have debated the campus carry law on the floor and changed it through amendments.
But the move to even debate the unrelated gun bill failed on a 44-81 vote.
The vote temporarily silenced a debate that has been simmering under the surface for much of the 2017 session.
But moderate Republicans who voted against having the debate said the issue of concealed carry is not over yet.
“No it is not,” said House Majority Leader Don Hineman, a Dighton Republican. “We’re still working on it.”
Only four Republicans voted with Democrats to debate the gun bill. Had moderates voted with Democrats, it probably would have been enough for the bill to be brought to the floor.
Hineman, a moderate, said there are ongoing negotiations with those involved in the concealed carry debate to try to reach a solution this session.
Moderate Republicans’ votes against bringing the gun bill to a floor debate was a reflection of their desire to see how negotiations play out, Hineman said.
“That would be preferable to wide open debate with endless possibilities and very indeterminate outcome,” he said.
That reasoning did little to convince Ward shortly after the vote failed.
“The good Jim says, ‘Well, maybe they want to see what happens with the compromise,’ ” Ward said of moderate Republicans voting against the debate. “The bad Jim says, ‘There’s too many Republicans afraid of what their NRA rating is.’ ”
Rep. Tom Cox, a moderate Republican from Shawnee, pointed to the negotiations as the reason behind his vote against the debate.
“What this would have done would have effectively been a ceremonial vote that very well would have killed all of those negotiations,” Cox said. “We could have had this ceremonial vote, potentially passed some stuff out of the House, and it would have killed any chance of reform, I think, of actually going through.”
Because of the 2013 law that allowed handguns in most public buildings, universities and state hospitals like Larned and Osawatomie would only be able to legally keep the guns out of buildings if they installed security measures like armed guards and metal detectors. The law also affects the University of Kansas Health System.
Further changes to state gun laws in 2015 rid Kansas of requirements that people 21 and older needed a permit to carry concealed weapons in the state.
Despite some support in the Legislature for revisions, changes to the campus carry law seem unlikely to be welcomed by Gov. Sam Brownback.
Both the Kansas State Rifle Association and the National Rifle Association have opposed changes to the concealed carry law this session.
The governor has repeatedly said, when asked about changes to the concealed carry law, that he’s a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights.
“The obstructionist-in-chief is still right there in the middle of the road,” Ward said.
HOW THEY VOTED
Here’s how members of the Johnson and Wyandotte county delegations voted on the motion to bring the gun bill up for debate.
Yes votes in the House: Republicans Shelee Brim, Stephanie Clayton, Melissa Rooker.
Democrats Tom Burroughs, Pam Curtis, Stan Frownfelter, Broderick Henderson, Cindy Holscher, Nancy Lusk, Cindy Neighbor, Jarrod Ousley, Brett Parker, Louis Ruiz, Jerry Stogsdill, Valdenia Winn, Kathy Wolfe Moore.
No votes in the House: Republicans Larry Campbell, Tom Cox, Erin Davis, Willie Dove, Keith Esau, Linda Gallagher, Jan Kessinger, Joy Koesten, Patty Markley, Randy Powell, Abraham Rafie, John Resman, Ron Ryckman, Scott Schwab, William Sutton, Sean Tarwater.