December 7, 2023

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

House Committee Hosts Conceal and Carry on Campus Hearing

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Members of the Kansas House Fed and State committee heard fresh testimony on a bill that would allow Kansas public universities to ban concealed weapons in campus buildings after an exemption from a 2013 law expires at the end of June.

The 2013 law requires state and municipal buildings to allow concealed weapons unless adequate security measures are provided to keep all weapons out. Universities and other municipal buildings are exempt from the security requirements, but that exemption runs out on July 1. Under House bill 2074, the exemption would continue indefinitely, allowing universities to ban concealed weapons from buildings without putting security measures in place.

Supporters and proponents of the legislation crowded into the hearing on Feb. Chair John Barker, an Abilene Republican, limited testimony to 90 seconds per speaker.

Lobbyists for the Kansas League of Municipalities, the Kansas Association of Counties, the Kansas National Education Association, and the Kansas Hospital Association, spoke in favor of the legislation, saying local authorities should be able to decide whether citizens are allowed to carry concealed weapons in their buildings.

Travis Couture-Lovelady, a former legislators turned lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said universities can choose to disallow concealed weapons.

“All they have to do is put up the adequate security measures,” he told the committee.

Supporters of banning concealed weapons on college campuses outnumbered opponents.

Megan Jones, a graduate student at the University of Kansas, said guns on campus increase the likelihood that people on college campuses will be killed. Jones said she had been raped.

“If I had a gun in that moment, I can almost guarantee you I would be dead right now. Guns do not make women safer from sexual assault,” she said. “…Someone is going to die if this bill does not pass and we allow unrestricted firearms on our campuses and in our hospitals.”

Before and after the hearing, Jones stood with a number of activists wearing bands around their mouths with “NRA” written on them.

Jones was one of more than a handful of people who testified for the legislation saying they were affiliated with Kansas universities as students or professors, but were speaking as individuals. None of Kansas’ universities or community colleges offered formal support or opposition to the legislation.

Rep. Barbara Ballard, a Lawrence Democrat, spoke in favor of the bill. She testified that there are 18 states that ban concealed weapons on their college campuses; 24 states leave the decision to the universities and eight states allow concealed weapons on campuses.

“These locations have been previously exempted for good reasons,” Ballard said. “Concealed weapons could contribute to a sense of distrust and fear. I am not interested in taking away anyone’s guns. At the same time, what I am going to ask is that you think in terms of maybe, there should be some places that we do not have guns.”

A Senate committee hosted a hearing on similar legislation last week, but the bill was not forwarded out of committee. The legislation has a better chance of passing out of the House Fed and State Committee, though. If it is forwarded with or without amendments to the full House for consideration, it is likely to be a close vote. If approved, the bill could also face a veto from Gov. Sam Brownback.

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