Hey, Kansans: Brace yourselves. Your state is about to change in a consequential way.
Barring the unexpected, concealed weapons soon will be allowed in state hospitals, psychiatric institutions and on the state’s public university campuses.
That’s happening in just 38 days unless pro-common-sense lawmakers pull a rabbit out of their hats and muscle through a new law. But that looks increasingly unlikely as the Legislature struggles with big issues in its ongoing wrap-up session.
C’mon, admit it: Many of you didn’t think this would really happen. You didn’t think your freshman son or daughter could wind up sitting next to another student who’s legally packing heat in a giant lecture hall where intense arguments erupt out of nowhere.
You didn’t think visitors to emergency rooms where tensions can run sky-high in the aftermath of shootings could be carrying handguns beneath sweatshirts. And you didn’t think — who in their right minds would? — that lawmakers would permit guns inside state psychiatric institutions.
But on July 1, that could all come to pass. The only barrier would be a decision by lawmakers to spend tens of millions they don’t have for security upgrades, such as metal detectors and armed guards, to keep guns out. That’s what is required to exempt an institution from the new law. Just don’t look for it to happen on college campuses. They’re simply too big. They have too many entrance points.
The University of Kansas Health System has vowed to spend the money itself. But what a waste when other health care needs are so pressing.
Last week, what may have been the last attempt to change gun laws sputtered to a halt in the state Senate. Lawmakers debated a series of exemptions to the law only to see those efforts evaporate when the Senate sent the legislation back to committee. In legislative terms, that’s often seen as a death knell for a bill this late in a session.
To be sure, the anti-gun crowd may not be done. A massive lobbying effort by voters would help, but it’s probably too late.
Here’s the thinking that the anti-gun crowd is up against: “For me, it’s about the rule of law,” said state Sen. Dennis Pyle, a Hiawatha Republican, during that Senate debate. “It’s also about God-given rights and, you know, my God-given rights for self-defense don’t get dropped when I enter a campus or enter a hospital.”
In a scared world, the gun crowd is winning. More guns are the answer.
It’s even winning at KU, where last week the Board of Regents set aside the campus’s own policy that called for gun owners to be in possession of concealed handguns at all times. The National Rifle Association considered that policy too restrictive and demanded a change so that loaded guns carried in a backpack or purse can, for example, be set on the floor nearby. In making the change, the regents reversed their earlier approval of KU’s policy. Never mind the extensive efforts KU went through to reduce the chances that someone else might get their hands on a concealed gun.
Kansas is about to change, and that change is significant, shortsighted and scary. Right now, it’s last call for common sense.