Kansas Lawmakers Vote To Expand Conceal Carry

photo

By John Celock

The Kansas Senate voted Thursday evening to advance legislation that would expand the state’s conceal carry law for public employees, while turning back proposals to limit conceal carry elsewhere.

Under the legislation, public employees would be able to conceal carry a gun while undertaking their duties outside of a public building. The vote came after a lengthy debate which included unsuccessful amendments to delay implementation for conceal carry at the state’s universities and prohibit guns from the state’s publicly owned hospitals.

The Senate spent much of the debate centered on the implementation of the state’s law for conceal carry at colleges and universities. Under the current proposal, colleges have to develop policies to implement the law by July 1, 2017. Sen. Jeff Longbine (R-Emporia) proposed an amendment to delay the implementation by four years.

Longbine argued that the state’s higher education community has objected to the conceal carry on campus law, citing a study from Fort Hays State University showing 69 percent opposed to guns on campus.

Sen. Forrest Knox (R-Altoona) argued against Longbine saying that the law would allow for students to protect themselves on campus and that colleges have had three years to figure out a plan that would be implemented next year.

Longbine’s amendment was defeated 11-26.

Sen. Michael O’Donnell (R-Wichita) proposed an amendment to move up the campus implementation date to July 1 of this year, arguing that universities have had three years to develop plans.

“We just want Kansans to be safe,” O’Donnell said. “There is no reason to put that off another year when we know there are people in society who want to harm other people.”

Several senators took to the floor to oppose O’Donnell arguing that moving up the date would be unfair to universities, which had planned on the four years to develop a policy and not three years. Sen. Marci Francisco (D-Lawrence) said that the University of Kansas has been working on a comprehensive plan to implement concealed carry, including meetings between safety officials and the residence life staff to address guns in dorms.

Francisco said that KU has also worked to figure out the equipment and staffing needed for the conceal carry law and had not made the purchases and hiring. Francisco said that universities have a long-term “inclusive” decision making process, citing the need for the Faculty Senate and Student Senate to weigh in on the process. She said O’Donnell’s amendment will take them out of the process.

“This is really moving forward a date with very little warning,” she said.

Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer (R-Grinnell) argued that the change would “make everybody mad” and that the colleges should get the original four years that they were promised. Sen. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka) said that she has been told by parents that they would not send their children to schools with concealed carry. She said that the change would come as students are in the process of making final college decisions and that should not be sped up.

“There are students out there who probably made college decisions based on that timeline,” Kelly said of the original four years.

O’Donnell said that he wanted to promote safety on campus.

“They only way to prevent bad things from happening is for good people to stop it,” he said.

O’Donnell’s amendment was defeated 14-25.

Sen. Kay Wolf (R-Prairie Village) proposed an amendment that would have prohibited concealed carry at government owned hospitals in the state. She said that she has heard concerns about guns being carried in hospitals, including the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Wolf argued that hospital patients are typically weak and on medications. She said that it would be tough for them to handle someone with a gun in place.

“These people are extremely vulnerable and there is no way for them to defend themselves,” she said.

Knox argued against Wolf’s amendment, saying that the concealed carry would allow for defense mechanisms to put in place at hospitals. He said that criminals would not be stopped by a gun ban at a hospital. He noted his daughter works at a hospital and there have been concerns about gang victims being shot while in the emergency rooms. He noted that hospitals have put in place various safety measures to prevent shootings.

“A hospital is a dangerous place,” Knox said. “People come in and shoot people at hospitals.”

Wolf, whose amendment was defeated 10-28, said that she felt that the concealed carry move would increase stress on hospital staffs.

“To more stress on them to allow people to come in with their guns is not good,” Wolf said of hospital staff.


Categories