By John Celock
Kansas lawmakers are working to advance legislation that would ban guns in hospitals.
The state Senate Ways and Means Committee moved legislation Thursday that would allow the University of Kansas Hospital, and state mental health hospitals, minutes after the conclusion of the hearing. Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning (R-Overland Park) used a procedure known as “gut and go” to stick the gun ban bill, which he recently introduced, into a bill previously approved by the state House of Representatives. Under legislative rules, if the full Senate approves the bill then the state House would only be allowed to vote up or down on the measure, without amendment or debate by a House committee. The committee is likely to vote on the measure this week.
The state House Federal and State Affairs Committee defeated a similar proposal last month.
“If we are forced to allow guns into our hospital on July 1, we will be a serious economic disadvantage,” KU Hospital CEO Bob Page said during the hearing. “We’ll be the only hospital in our region that will have guns.”
Under the current law, the hospitals would be allowed to prohibit concealed carry if they put proper security measures in place at every entrance, a move that hospital officials say will be too costly. Supporters of the gun ban told lawmakers it would promote safety by prohibiting guns. Supporters of the current law said the move towards allowing concealed carry would address that people already illegally bring guns into the hospital and that someone legally carrying a gun could increase security in the event of dangerous situations.
Page said that the hospital could lose employees if concealed carry is allowed. He said that hospital staff is already weighing whether they should continue at the hospital and that patients are expressing concern. He said that with the hospital becoming a main economic engine for the Kansas City region, guns in the facility would harm the hospital’s growth and possible set it on a backwards path. He noted that other hospitals nationally including Johns Hopkins, Massachusetts General and the Mayo Clinic do not allow guns. Page also said that Texas and Missouri exempted public hospitals from the concealed carry in public buildings law.
“We ask that you allow us to be treated the same way private hospitals are treated,” Page said.
KU Hospital chief medical officer Lee Norman told the committee that when they are talking to perspective medical residents, the questions of guns at the hospital comes up. He said that perspective residents question being in a facility with guns and said that the hospital “scraped by” in hiring residents this year.
“This will scare people away,” Norman told the committee.
Brett Hildabrand, the lobbyist for the Kansas State Rifle Association, told the committee that guns are likely already in the hospital. He noted that the hospital’s police chief told the committee that they have seized roughly a dozen guns from those coming into the hospital’s emergency room, where there are metal detectors.
“It is naïve to assume that there are not already guns in these facilities,” Hildabrand said.
Hildabrand also questioned the hospital’s cost estimates for security measures, noting that he has conducted research that has shown the cost to be less than KU Hospital said. When questioned by senators, Hildabrand said that he did not have the research with him and could not remember which hospitals. He said he could provide the research to the committee.
Hildabrand also noted his work in information technology in the health care sector, where he has seen security measures in place at other hospitals around the country.
Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee Chairwoman Vicki Schmidt (R-Topeka) questioned Hildabrand on why the KSRA and other advocates, including the National Rifle Association, want guns in public hospitals but are not calling for them in private hospitals.
“My logic side of me says that your arguments apply to them,” she said.
Hildabrand told Schmidt that the difference is that private hospitals are privately owned and that property rights issues apply.
“You have to weigh Second Amendment and personal property rights.” He said. “We can only address public entities that involve taxpayer money.”