Negotiations over keeping guns out of Kansas public hospitals appeared to break down on Tuesday.
Concealed weapons will be allowed into public hospitals, such as the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, beginning July 1 under current law. The hospitals would have to install metal detectors with armed guards at entrances to keep guns out.
State mental health hospitals will also have to allow weapons unless security measures are implemented. The agency that oversees the mental health hospitals estimates that would cost more than $12 million.
Gun rights advocates, such as the National Rifle Association and the Kansas State Rifle Association, have been negotiating with the KU Medical Center and KU Health Systems over possible changes to the law.
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Both sides met with Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday, said Moriah Day, a spokesman for the Kansas association.
“I would say that, right now, the negotiations have stalled. Both sides had brought forward some different ideas. The KU Med Center specifically was not willing to dial back from a full-blown exemption,” Day said.
KU Medical Center officials didn’t respond to a request for comment. Lobbyists for the hospital would not comment.
House Majority Leader Don Hineman, R-Dighton, said late Tuesday afternoon that his understanding was that no agreement had been reached.
“I know there have been some serious discussions. I fear that there once again is no meeting of the minds,” Hineman said.
Earlier Tuesday, a debate over the bill appeared possible. The Senate calendar listed the bill “above the line,” meaning it was scheduled for debate. But as the day progressed, the legislation’s chances seemed to fade.
The Senate debated a bill two weeks ago that would have put some restrictions in place. Senators sent it back to committee without taking a vote.
A Sedgwick County lawmaker raised the possibility that discussions over guns in hospitals could affect the potential acquisition of St. Francis Hospital in Topeka. KU Health System and Ardent Health Services announced an agreement in early May to acquire the hospital.
“Gun bill update – KU won’t compromise with NRA. Rumored coercion of gov by saying they will back out of St. Francis hospital buy,” Rep. Blake Carpenter, R-Derby, posted on Twitter.
In an interview, Carpenter didn’t offer evidence of coercion.
“That’s what I’ve heard rumored,” Carpenter said. “I’m not going to go as far to say that is what they’ve said, but that’s what I’ve been hearing. So I tweeted what I’ve been hearing.”
Carpenter said that a few weeks ago, House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, had tweeted a similar message.
On May 5 – the day after the KU Health System announced an agreement to acquire St. Francis – Ward tweeted: “Did KU Hospital get an agreement from (Brownback) that he would not veto gun safety bill before helping him with St. Francis?”
Asked about Carpenter’s tweet and the negotiations, a Brownback spokeswoman provided few details.
“Governor Brownback will review any legislation that arrives on his desk,” spokeswoman Melika Willoughby said in an e-mail.
Contributing: Bryan Lowry, Hunter Woodall and Andy Marso of the Kansas City Star