Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback remained uncommitted Monday on whether he would sign or veto a bill that would prohibit guns in the state’s hospitals.
House Bill 2278, which would continue an exemption to the state’s concealed carry laws for mental health and public hospitals, passed the Legislature last week.
“There are a lot of different facets to this bill,” Brownback told reporters Monday at a separate bill signing. “These are heartfelt, difficult issues.”
Hospitals will have to allow concealed weapons inside starting July 1 under a current state law. The hospitals would have to set up metal detectors with armed guards at entrances in order to prohibit guns.
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State mental health hospitals like Osawatomie State Hospital and Larned State Hospital will also have to allow weapons unless security measures are implemented. The Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services, the agency that oversees the mental health hospitals, estimates that would cost more than $12 million.
The bill passed last week would allow hospitals to continue to keep out such weapons.
Brownback mediated unsuccessful negotiations between the National Rifle Association and the University of Kansas Medical Center, as well as the Kansas Hospital Association, before lawmakers passed the bill.
“I spent a lot of time trying to come up with a negotiated settlement on that bill,” Brownback said.
“We thought we had a deal,” he said. “That fell apart.”
During debate last week, lawmakers gave conflicting accounts of what the governor had told them he would do if the bill passed. Brownback said he did not recall indicating he would veto or sign off on certain portions of it.
“I had a lot of negotiations with a lot of people where a lot of ideas were thrown out,” he said. “We were really trying to negotiate a settlement.”
Brownback said that KU Medical Center and behavioral hospitals have legitimate concerns about guns in their facilities. But he also called Kansas a “strong Second Amendment state.”
“There’s a lot of strong proponents for Second Amendment rights,” he said. “You’re trying to balance those.”
The bill reached his desk Monday. He has until June 15 to sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature.
Contributing: Jonathan Shorman of The Eagle