Kansas Regents Prepare To Implement Gun Law Amid Concerns
The chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents says he doesn’t anticipate substantial changes in state gun laws ahead of a deadline for allowing the concealed carry of handguns on university campuses.
Shane Bangerter, a Dodge City attorney appointed to the board in 2013 by Gov. Sam Brownback, said the Kansas law allowing concealed carry in public places passed by large majorities in 2013. He doesn’t expect lawmakers to revisit the issue in the upcoming session despite growing calls for them to do so in the wake of a recent spate of mass shootings in Colorado, Oregon and California.
“I don’t anticipate there being any substantial changes,” Bangerter said. “If there are, of course, we can adjust our policy accordingly.”
The Kansas House passed the bill – the Personal and Family Protection Act – 104-16. It was approved by the Senate 32-7. Legislators who voted for the bill said they believed that allowing law-abiding citizens to carry handguns on university campuses would make them safer.
Bangerter spoke to reporters Wednesday after the Regents Governance Committee approved a draft policy for implementing the law at the six state universities it governs.
The policy, which the full board is expected to consider at its January meeting, leaves it up to the universities to draft their own policies, which the regents then must approve. The board will begin reviewing those policies in June so they can be finalized and disseminated to students and faculty approximately a year ahead of the July 2017 implementation deadline.
Recently, students and faculty members at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University have voiced concerns about lifting current policies that ban weapons on their campuses.
“There is no evidence that increased gun presence has decreased death or injury by guns on campuses,” 40 K-State professors wrote in a letter submitted to newspapers across the state. “Beyond the boundaries of universities, the evidence is that the presence of guns in homes increases the likelihood of death or injury by gunshot. We believe our community is safest without guns in our midst, except in the hands of on-duty law enforcement officials.”
A group of distinguished professors at KU issued a similar statement, and Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little announced her opposition in a message to faculty and staff.
“I want to be clear that I am not in favor of allowing concealed carry on university campuses,” Gray-Little wrote, noting that she too thought it “unlikely” that lawmakers will change the law.
The regents’ draft policy continues a current ban on the open carry of firearms and requires that concealed handguns be carried with their safeties engaged. And it requires residents of scholarship halls and dormitories who possess handguns to conceal them in secure storage devices when in their rooms. The draft says allowing students, faculty and visitors to carry concealed handguns doesn’t create an obligation that they intervene in dangerous situations to defend others.
Kansas is one of eight states that have passed laws allowing concealed carry on university campuses, e it up to the universities.
Jim McLean is executive editor of KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.