A bill continuing a ban on guns at public hospitals in Kansas will become law without the governor’s signature.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said in a message Thursday that “appropriately” restricting concealed carry at state mental health hospitals enjoyed wide, bipartisan support.
“This bill does address the safety concerns at state mental health hospitals,” he said in a statement, while also emphasizing that “the right to bear arms is essential towards preserving our freedoms and maintaining self-government.”
House Bill 2278 exempts from the state’s concealed carry laws state or municipal-owned medical care facilities and adult care homes, community mental health centers and indigent health care clinics. The Senate passed the bill 24-16. The House passed it 91-33.
If Brownback had vetoed the measure, a 2013 law would have required such facilities to allow concealed weapons inside starting July 1. The hospitals would have had to set up metal detectors with armed guards at entrances in order to prohibit guns.
Efforts to block concealed carry from going into effect on college and university campuses failed during the 2017 legislative session.
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 hospital bill.
In his Thursday statement, he said a “reasonable compromise” was rejected by health care representatives.
Some conservative lawmakers have criticized the bill as taking guns away from law-abiding citizens.
“I was hoping that when the bill hit his desk two Mondays ago that he would veto it,” said Rep. Blake Carpenter, R-Derby. “Ultimately, he held on to it for too long and decided not to take a stance.”
Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, D-Kansas City, who pushed for the bill, predicted earlier this month that there may have been “somewhat of a meltdown” if Brownback chose to veto the legislation.
On Thursday, Wolfe Moore said she was grateful for the governor making the decision he did and called it “an amazing outcome for such a hard-fought battle.”
KU Health officials lobbied lawmakers to grant the hospital an exemption to the state’s concealed carry law throughout this year’s legislative session.
The National Rifle Association opposed bills that allowed the hospitals to continue banning the handguns without added security.
Earlier in the month, Brownback said KU Health and behavioral hospitals have legitimate concerns about guns in their facilities. But he also called Kansas a “strong Second Amendment state.”
“There are a lot of different facets to this bill,” Brownback told reporters at the time. “These are heartfelt, difficult issues.
“There’s a lot of strong proponents for Second Amendment rights,” he said. “You’re trying to balance those.”
Brownback said in his message that he remained committed to gun rights in Kansas.
“I encourage the legislature to continue its efforts to find a better balance between the safety concerns raised by some hospitals and the legitimate concerns of citizens preferring the ability to protect themselves.”
Under Kansas law, a bill that passes the Legislature becomes law if the governor does not sign or veto it within 10 days.