Lawmakers Consider Hospital Gun Ban


By John Celock

Kansas lawmakers heard testimony Thursday about a proposal to allow the University of Kansas Hospital to prohibit guns.

KU Hospital officials told the House Federal and State Affairs Committee that the legislation would promote safety on the medical center campus in Kansas City and allow the hospital to continue to be an economic engine for the state. On July 1, a state law is due to take effect that would allow for the concealed carry of weapons in the hospital, unless the hospital puts security procedures in place. The hearing occurred a day after the committee held a hearing on a bill to prohibit guns on college campuses, which is scheduled to take effect on July 1.

“We must tell patients and their families bad news. The family might be angry because they think we might be giving up on their loved one,” Lee Norman, the hospital’s chief medical officer, told the committee. “Guns would violate the sanctity of the doctor/patient relationship, which is based on trust.”

Norman said that the hospital was not arguing against the Second Amendment or arguing for gun control.

Hospital officials said that guns should not be in hospitals due to the stressful nature of hospital interactions and the potential fear of armed patients would have on the medical staff. They noted that many people in hospitals are “not of sound mind” due to the stress and that an armed individual could cause an issue.

Rick Johnson, the hospital’s police chief, noted that health care workplaces has more violence than other workplaces and noted that it could cause an increase in incidents at KU Hospital if the gun law was allowed to take effect.

Hospital officials spent much of their time focused on the hospital’s role in the state and Midwest as an economic engine, including the growth in jobs at the hospital from 2,200 to 10,000 in the last 19 years. The officials also touched on the impact the hospital’s growth has had on other jobs in the Kansas City region, along with having patients from across Kansas and Missouri, along with patients from around the country.

“Because of that care and compassion of our physicians, our nurses and our other health care professionals, we have been recognized nationally for that outstanding care,” Nancy Peterman, the hospital’s chief operating officer and chief nursing officer. “We are able to recruit and retain the very best people. They love the place they work and the people they work with”

Travis Couture-Lovelady, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, testified against the legislation, saying that the current gun free zone at the hospital does not mean that guns would not be in the hospital. He said that while the hospital has gun free zone stickers in place those with illegal weapons can still enter the hospital.

“You cannot guarantee that there are not guns going into the facility,” Couture-Lovelady said.

The law allowing concealed carry in the hospital would allow the ban of guns if the hospital placed metal detectors and other security in place. Hospital officials said the security measures are not workable for the hospital.

Rep. Stephanie Clayton (R-Prairie Village) asked Couture-Lovelady why have the laws in place prohibiting gun use if people are going to carry guns illegally into hospitals. Couture-Lovelady said that a sticker is not preventative and allowing people to carry guns would increase safety in the event of a shooting incident.

“The laws are great and will prevent people from doing so. What you are going to do by placing the sticker on the door is prevent the people who are following the law, they will be disarmed in that situation,” Couture-Lovelady said. “They will be prevented from doing something in that scenario from something happening and the police getting there.”

Rep. John Whitmer (R-Wichita) questioned the hospital staff on language of the bill, which would prohibit guns from the hospital zone as defined by the Kansas City master plan. He noted that many hospitals don’t just have medical facilities on their campus, but also create hotels and other facilities for the families of patients.

“I understand the arguments you have made so far for the hospital. This bill would allow you to restrict it in a hotel, restaurant and parking complex,” Whitmer said. “That is what I struggle with. The bill is so broad it includes the park. Would you consider limiting the scope of the bill?”

Hospital chief executive officer Bob Page said that he would be willing to consider changes to the bill to tailor it to medical facilities. He also said that the hospital was not planning to enter into the hospitality industry.

Peterman said that the bill was needed for safety.

“No one comes to the hospital expecting to be the victim of gun violence,” she said. “No one comes to work thinking they will be injured because of a gun.”