The Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday advanced a bill that would allow public health care facilities to continue to ban concealed guns.
A state law taking effect July 1 will allow people to carry concealed guns into any public building that is not secured by armed guards and metal detectors.
The bill that advanced Tuesday would allow guns to be banned at state-run psychiatric hospitals, publicly owned medical facilities and the University of Kansas Health System.
This bill is similar to a measure that was debated and amended last week, then sent back to committee for more work. During Tuesday’s committee meeting, some lawmakers have agreed not to offer amendments to the bill in order to increase its chances of becoming law. However, the plan still faces a hurdle because the powerful National Rifle Association is not on board.
Republican Sen. Carolyn McGinn, chairwoman of the committee, hopes that leaving the bill focused on health care facilities and state psychiatric hospitals will reduce opposition. She said it would be expensive to install security at large medical facilities.
“This is specifically tied to saving the state dollars on security at campuses that do not have just one entrance. They have multiple entrances,” McGinn said.
Democratic Sen. Tom Hawk would like to also exempt colleges and universities from the concealed weapons law, but he has agreed not to propose that if other people also do not suggest amendments.
“I’m willing to play nice with my colleagues to get this bill through,” Hawk said.
The concern for lawmakers like Democratic Sen. Laura Kelly is that expanding the bill to include college campuses could mean the plan fails or faces a veto from Gov. Sam Brownback.
“This is the most we can get,” Kelly said. “I’m not interested in having something else go down and take the hospital exemption with it.”
Kelly hopes there will be future efforts to exempt college campuses from the law but suspects that won’t happen this session.
Although the bill is being pushed as an agreement that could become law, the powerful National Rifle Association is not on board. Former Republican House member Travis Couture-Lovelady is now a lobbyist for the NRA, and he had a hand in efforts to find a compromise.
He said the NRA would agree to ban guns in select areas of the state’s psychiatric hospitals and KU health facilities. But he said the organization opposes the bill that advanced out of committee because it allows too many buildings to block people from carrying guns for self-defense.
“If you’re going to restrict law-abiding citizens’ ability to defend themselves in that building, you should provide the security to show that nobody in that building is carrying,” Couture-Lovelady said.
Simply banning guns in the health care facilities won’t stop people who are intent on violating the rule, he said.
“We believe that just putting a sticker on the door and hoping folks don’t carry in there isn’t enough. You need some kind of security,” said Couture-Lovelady.
The full Kansas Senate could take consider the bill in the coming days.
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service.