TOPEKA – Gun owners who have a Kansas concealed-carry permit would be allowed to take their weapons into more public buildings under a bill approved Monday by the state House.
The House’s 74-50 vote sends the measure to the Senate, where it’s likely to get a cool reception. House members rewrote the bill so that it’s not as strong as its supporters initially wanted, but it still faces opposition from many local governments and higher education officials.
The bill prohibits many state and local government agencies from banning concealed guns on their premises unless they have “adequate” security. Hospitals, colleges and nursing homes could exempt themselves for up to four years by sending a notification to the attorney general’s office explaining the reasons.
“It is about safety,” said Rep. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, who pushed for the measure. “You’re not afraid of illegal guns that are already there but you’re afraid of law-abiding citizens who are carrying guns? And I think the public sees that point.”
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Knox originally wanted to go further, prohibiting state colleges and universities from banning permit holders from carrying their concealed weapons on campuses unless they had adequate security at their buildings. The bill initially was a response to a policy banning weapons on campuses from the state Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s higher education system.
Knox and other supporters of the state’s 2006 concealed-carry law argued that allowing people to carry their weapons on campus would make them safer and reduce crime. But Knox acknowledged Monday that his original measure wasn’t likely to pass.
Some House members still remained wary of the measure, arguing that while crime generally has dropped since the concealed-carry law took effect, that decline has many causes and isn’t likely tied to the law. They questioned whether many instructors or students would feel safe in class knowing people might have concealed guns.
“If I give a student a poor grade or if I say something they don’t like, and they have a weapon, I don’t know if they would shoot me,” said Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City, who is a history professor at Kansas City (Kan.) Community College. “I don’t think it creates the environment you want to promote.”
Knox contends such fears are unfounded, noting a lack of reported incidents involving concealed-carry permit holders in Kansas. About 41,000 people have Kansas permits, which is about 1 percent of the eligible population.
The bill also contains provisions that prevent businesses, local governments or state agencies from being held legally liable for injuries, deaths or damages done by the holder of a concealed-carry permit, regardless of their policies on allowing weapons.
Meanwhile, some state and local officials believe the bill would create budget problems for local governments.
Mike Taylor, a lobbyist for the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County, said it would cost $1.1 million for new metal detectors and another $1 million a year on staffing if officials there attempted to make all of the buildings secure enough to avoid having to allow concealed weapons. Buildings that the Unified Government operates include recreational ones and a concert hall.
Decisions about whether to allow concealed-carry permit holders to bring guns onto the premises should be left to local governments, Taylor said.