By ANDY MARSO
Kansas public colleges will have to allow firearms on their campuses starting in July. But they’re still battling with the gun lobby over how people should be allowed to carry their guns.
In preparation for the law mandating concealed carry on campuses, the colleges have proposed some restrictions. For example, people carrying a semi-automatic weapon on campuses would not be allowed to keep a round in the chamber.
But the National Rifle Association wants the Legislature to pass House Bill 2220, which would wipe out any restrictions colleges enact when it comes to owning, possessing, storing, carrying or transporting concealed guns.
Representatives of the NRA and the Kansas State Rifle Association were the only ones to testify for the bill at a hearing Thursday.
They said some of the colleges’ proposed regulations are overly restrictive and people need to be able to carry weapons unfettered in order to protect themselves on campuses.
Students, faculty members and Kansas Board of Regents Chairwoman Zoe Newton testified against the bill, saying colleges should be able to make rules to reduce the risk of accidental shootings.
Rep. Vic Miller, a Democrat from Topeka, said he thought both sides were being overly dramatic.
“The idea that because you can carry on campus you now have this grand protection you didn’t have before is highly exaggerated,” Miller said. “The flip side is, no I don’t believe that because you’re now allowed to carry that any significant percentage of students are going to.”
Miller said that because concealed carry on campuses will only be allowed for people who are 21 and over, it won’t apply to the majority of students. Other states that have allowed concealed carry on campuses have seen few problems or benefits, he said.
Rep. Stephanie Clayton, a Republican from Overland Park, said she thought the bill was retaliation against the colleges for pushing legislation to repeal concealed carryon campuses.
But Rep. Blake Carpenter, a Republican from Derby who introduced HB 2220, said that wasn’t the case.
The repeal effort stalled last month with an 11-11 vote of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.
Rep. John Barker, a Republican from Abilene who chairs the committee, said he has no timeline for a vote on HB 2220.
Under the law that goes into effect in July, colleges and the University of Kansas Medical Center will be able to ban guns only in buildings where all public entrances are secured with metal detectors and armed guards. The medical center has said that would be too expensive.
During Thursday’s hearing, Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, an aerospace engineering professor at the University of Kansas, said a lab where he works contains incendiary materials. The lab already is outfitted with metal detectors, but he agreed that hiring guards would be cost-prohibitive.
Andy Marso is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of kcur.org, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics in Kansas. You can reach him on Twitter @andymarso.