Kansas lawmakers got an earful Thursday from speakers who don’t want to allow guns on college campuses starting this summer.
Under current law, public colleges and universities must allow students to carry concealed weapons on campus after July 1. That would range from regents universities such as the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Wichita State University to dozens of community colleges across the state.
SB 53 would exempt those schools from campus carry indefinitely. The bill found a sympathetic audience when it got a hearing before the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee. Most speakers expressed support for the bill.
Several professors, including K-State associate professor Dan Hoyt, said they would not have wanted to teach in a state with campus carry.
“I would never have left my job at a university in Ohio to come to Kansas State if I knew there would be guns on campus,” Hoyt said.
Other professors said some of their colleagues were “job searching” with the law’s impending implementation.
Several current undergraduates said guns and college students, in all their stress and anxiety, would not mix well.
I just wonder how many of you have hung out with a lot of college students recently, because we aren’t exactly mature or responsible.
Reagan Tokos, Kansas State student
“I just wonder how many of you have hung out with a lot of college students recently, because we aren’t exactly mature or responsible,” said Reagan Tokos, a K-State student from Omaha. “I don’t think adding guns to classroom settings or anywhere on campus would really be a great idea.”
“Campuses are a learning environment, and guns have no place on campus except in the hands of law enforcement officials,” added Washburn student Jaden Williams.
Campuses are a learning environment, and guns have no place on campus except in the hands of law enforcement officials.
Jaden Williams, Washburn student
Supporters of the bill also echoed calls for local control.
“I believe decisions regarding the security of a complex campus are best made by the people most familiar with the institution,” said Melanie Harvey, a faculty member at Johnson County Community College.
Harvey said professors teaching classes with special safety requirements were worried about loaded guns in welding labs, automotive shops or chemistry labs.
“Many situations are more likely to quickly escalate if guns are present,” she added.
Opponents of the bill, who were outnumbered at the hearing, said students should have a right to protect themselves while on college campuses.
It’s interesting to me I can be trusted out in town as a four-year veteran who carried a firearm with me everywhere I went … but on my college campus, I can’t do the same.
Derek Cox, Kansas State student
“It’s interesting to me I can be trusted out in town as a four-year veteran who carried a firearm with me everywhere I went … but on my college campus, I can’t do the same,” said Derek Cox, a K-State student who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and who supports campus carry.
Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, said government should protect rights, “not deny them.”
“Nobody wants a gun on campus, until they do,” Fitzgerald said. “People will wish and pray they had a weapon or that the person next to them had a weapon.”
Travis Couture-Lovelady, the National Rifle Association’s state liaison and a former state lawmaker, said the law “gives law-abiding citizens greater options for self-protection.”