By John Celock
A Kansas House committee narrowly rejected legislation that would have allowed the University of Kansas Medical Center to ban guns in their buildings.
The House Federal and State Affairs Committee voted 11-11 Wednesday to defeat legislation that would have permanently exempted the hospital from a July 1 law that would require conceal carry in the hospital – and other public buildings like colleges – unless security measures were put in place at every entrance. The committee’s action came after intense debate on a series of amendments, including a broader exemption of guns in health care facilities and allowing guns in public housing.
“The current law already provides KU Medical Center to exempt themselves with adequate security.” Rep. Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) said. “If adequate security is provided I don’t mind giving up my Second Amendment rights. If adequate security is not provided I do mind.”
Currently KU Medical Center can place stickers on doors saying that it is a “gun free zone.” Under the law taking effect on July 1, security measures like metal detectors would have to be to put into effect to continue being a “gun free zone.” Supporters of the measure said on Tuesday that by the hospital’s police force was not enough to provide security at the campus.
The measure is one of several gun control bills proposed this year, alongside one that would allow colleges to continue to ban guns on campus after July 1.
Federal and State Affairs Committee Chairman John Barker (R-Abilene) decided not to exercise his tie-breaking vote, allowing the tie to defeat the bill.
The committee rejected an amendment from Barker that would have exempted hospitals, adult care facilities, community mental health centers and health care clinics from the provisions of the gun law. During two days of discussion on the Barker amendment, clear dividing lines were drawn between supporters of the ban and opponents. The Barker amendment was rejected on a voice vote.
Rep. John Whitmer (R-Wichita) offered an amendment that would have required private buildings built in part with public financing through STAR Bonds to require guns. Whitmer said that since public funds were used for the building then the public should be able to carry a weapon while in the building.
“As long as the taxpayers are still subsidizing the facility, the public should be able to access the building. without losing their Second Amendment rights,” he said.
The STAR Bonds provision has been proposed in past years unsuccessfully.
Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway), who was a supporter of the overall bill, led the opposition to the Whitmer amendment, saying that she believed that it was an example of government overreach by telling private property owners what they could allow.
“We have private business owners who entered into their decisions to locate their businesses in certain areas. So we as a state would be encroaching on their rights,” Rooker said. “It is currently their choice and now this amendment would force the issue on them. It goes beyond what I think is appropriate.”
Whitmer’s amendment was defeated in a 9-13 vote.
Rep. Blake Carpenter (R-Derby) put forward a proposal that would require landlords who rent residential units that receive public housing subsidies to allow guns in their units.
“Just because you go and live in public housing doesn’t mean you should lose any rights, especially in the Bill of Rights,” Carpenter said.
Committee members questioned if the Carpenter amendment would potentially put public housing funds from the federal government at risk. Carpenter said he did not see how the amendment would put those funds at risk. Rooker suggested that Carpenter pull his amendment and reintroduce it as a bill to allow for the committee to do more research into the subject before a vote. Carpenter declined the request when Rooker made it.
Several opponents of the Carpenter amendment noted that those moving into public housing know in advance if the landlord will block weapons and can choose to live somewhere else. The Carpenter amendment was defeated 10-11.
The committee later voted to introduce legislation based on the Carpenter amendment.
Several opponents of the bill said that they believed that there was no need to fear and that they feel safe walking around the medical center’s Kansas City neighborhood. Rep. Louis Ruiz (D-Kansas City) who represents the hospital said that he does not need to carry a gun when walking around the area.
Rep. Stephanie Clayton (R-Overland Park) said that she appreciates the work of law enforcement and that she believed that the bill was questioning the ability of law enforcement to provide protection.
Clayton also said that she believes that people should not have to fear that they need to carry a gun for protection.
“I believe that people are inherently good and that people will act with goodness and decency,” Clayton said. “If we continue to trust our fellow Americans to do the right thing we will be better as a society than thinking people will live through fear.”
Carpenter said that he believes that wanting to carry a gun is not about fear.
“I am afraid of nothing, I am prepared for the worst,” he said.