In July 2017 the exemption from the concealed carry law in Kansas that now exists for colleges and health facilities expires, and anyone, with no need for a permit or training, will be able to carry a concealed gun on our campuses and in our hospitals.
Members of the Legislature who continue to support this policy believe it will make us safer, echoing National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre’s comment: “The only protection against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This is an evocative call to “Old West” values.
The problem is that it is simply not true. I am a physician at the University of Kansas Hospital and I know I represent the views of others. We see gun injuries. We see people who have shot themselves and have been shot by others. We see children, pregnant women, frail older adults, people with mental illness and other vulnerable individuals.
We have police on campus and in our hospital and clinics. More people carrying guns will make us less safe. Surveys show overwhelming opposition to this law on our state university campuses. The opposition at KU is 82 percent. Faculty worry about giving students failing grades when they may be armed and angry.
Everyone worries that arguments will escalate into injury or death. I worry that it might take one threat in an exam room or waiting room to cause a shootout. An even bigger reason to be concerned is that physicians care about the public’s health.
The research is clear. More guns around result in more injuries and deaths. This is true for homicides, suicides and accidental shootings.
In 2007, Missouri eliminated permit-to-carry, and homicides have risen 40 percent (which did not happen in other states). After the mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary, Connecticut tightened its permit laws, and homicides dropped. We could learn from the experiences of other states.
Suicide accounts for nearly 50 percent of gun deaths. For many, it is an impulsive act. Because suicide is 85 percent “successful” with a gun (while less than 5 percent when overdosing on pills), it does not allow people to change their mind or receive therapy. “Successful” suicide rates in males aged 16 to 24 are far higher in states with the loosest gun laws.
This is not because they have higher rates of depression; it is because they have easy access to a nonreversible method of acting impulsively. This is not a debate about whether the Second Amendment means everyone should be able to have concealed carry, armor-piercing bullets or automatic weapons. It is not an issue of “guns are good” or “guns are bad.”
It is our role as physicians to look at the implications of laws for people’s health. Allowing concealed carry of guns on our campuses, and especially in our hospitals and clinics, will make people feel and be less safe.
We don’t need more gun injuries to treat and we don’t want them in our health care facilities.
Joshua Freeman, M.D., is professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center and chief of family medicine at the University of Kansas Hospital. He is a resident of Kansas City, Kan. The opinions expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kansas, the University of Kansas Medical Center, or the University of Kansas Hospital.