Gov. Sam Brownback was noncommittal Monday about what he will do with a bill passed by the Kansas Legislature that would allow public hospitals to continue banning concealed firearms.
The legislation passed the Kansas Legislature last week with bipartisan support despite the objections of the National Rifle Association and several conservative members of the House and Senate.
“We’re looking at it, listening to individuals closely and carefully,” Brownback said.
If state law goes unchanged, public hospitals in Kansas, including the University of Kansas Health System and the state’s mental health hospitals, would be required to allow concealed handguns in their facilities starting next month unless they have certain security measures in place.
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Supporters of the bill have said the security would be costly and advocated that the state’s medical facilities and psychiatric hospitals should be granted a continued exemption from a state gun law.
Estimates for how much it would cost to provide that security, which called for armed guards and metal detectors at entrances, was roughly between $12 million and $24 million for certain state hospitals.
The bill on Brownback’s desk allows the hospitals to continue an exemption from the state’s concealed carry law that hospitals have had since 2013, when the bill expanding gun rights in Kansas was passed.
The medical sites were given four years to prepare for the law to take effect on July 1 of this year.
“These are heartfelt, difficult issues,” Brownback said. “This is a strong second amendment state so you’re trying to address those issues.”
During a brief press conference Monday, the governor told reporters that he had tried, and failed, to broker a compromise between those involved in the recent gun debate.
Brownback’s spokeswoman said the governor has until June 15 to make a decision on the legislation.
Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, a Kansas City, Kan., Democrat who urged her fellow lawmakers to support the bill during the debate, predicted there may be “somewhat of a meltdown” if Brownback decides to veto the bill.
The House passed the bill with 91 votes, a veto-proof majority, while the Senate signed off on the bill with 24 votes of support — three short of a veto-proof majority.
“It’s very clear what both bodies, the Senate and the House wants to happen on this,” Wolfe Moore said. “I’m so hopeful that he will hear that and he will sign this bill and get it done.”
The governor can either sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature.
“I’m taking time to listen to people,” Brownback said. “(There’s) lot’s of very strongly held viewpoints that are important to hear from individuals.”