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Kansas House Denies Concealed Carry Debate

Courtney Bierman
Kansas Public Radio
Protesters gathered Tuesday outside Wescoe Hall at the University of Kansas to oppose concealed firearms on Kansas campuses. Kansas House members declined to discuss the issue Tuesday.

Members of the Kansas House on Tuesday shot down a proposal to debate whether to allow concealed firearms on college campuses.

A motion by the chamber’s top Democrat would have forced the House to consider a bill regarding out-of-state concealed carry licenses. However, the real motivation was for critics of the state’s concealed carry law to propose changes during the debate.

House members rejected the idea of even bringing up the bill for debate with a 44-81 vote.

A 2013 state law says concealed firearms must be allowed in most public buildings, unless there are security measures in place to make sure no one brings guns into the facility. Universities, public hospitals and some other buildings have a temporary exemption that expires at the end of June.

Republican Majority Leader Don Hineman said Tuesday that lawmakers have been working on a compromise and most want to continue those negotiations.

“We’re still hopeful we can get to a resolution in that way,” he said. “That would be preferable to a wide-open debate with endless possibilities and a very indeterminate outcome.”

Hineman wouldn’t say if the compromise could include universities, hospitals or other facilities like mental health centers.

Most moderate-leaning Republicans, including Hineman, joined with conservatives in the vote to deny the debate.

“It’s a reflection of their desire to see the process of negotiations play out and see if we can come to an agreement that pretty much everyone is on board with,” Hineman said.

The top Democrat in the House, Jim Ward, introduced the motion to bring up the firearms bill and allow debate on concealed carry laws.

“There are a lot of people in the state of Kansas that are concerned about gun safety,” Ward said. “We had a perfect opportunity to have a full and vigorous debate, and it was rejected.”

The argument that there could be a compromise in the works wasn’t enough to satisfy Ward. He said the best way to forge a compromise would start with the House taking a stand on the issue.

“So when you have a compromise you know what you’re giving up,” Ward said.

Critics of the current law say concealed firearms shouldn’t be allowed at places like universities and public hospitals. They say it is unfeasible or very expensive to provide security so guns can continue to be barred.

Supporters of the current law say people have constitutional rights to carry guns and defend themselves. They say those rights should extend to places like college campuses, unless there are security measures in place to make sure no one is carrying a firearm.

Efforts to amend the law have faltered in House and Senate committees.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service.

As the Kansas News Service managing editor, I help our statewide team of reporters find the important issues and breaking news that impact people statewide. We refine our daily stories to illustrate the issues and events that affect the health, well-being and economic stability of the people of Kansas. Email me at skoranda@kcur.org.
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