Politics & Government

Guns on campus, tax policies highlight political debate at Wichita State

Guns on campus: Constitutional or crazy?

Kansas Democratic Party Chairman Lee Kinch and Republican Chairman Kelly Arnold square off over campus concealed carry, coming to Kansas universities next year. (April 14, 2016)
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Kansas Democratic Party Chairman Lee Kinch and Republican Chairman Kelly Arnold square off over campus concealed carry, coming to Kansas universities next year. (April 14, 2016)

Clashing over guns on college campuses and tax policy, the chairmen of the Kansas Republican and Democratic parties squared off in a debate Thursday on the campus of Wichita State University.

The debate, arranged by political science professor Mel Kahn, highlighted differences between the Republicans, who hold every statewide office and three-fourths of the seats in the Legislature, and the Democrats, who hope for a comeback in the November election.

One of the most pressing issues for the collegiate audience was guns on campus.

Kansas Democratic Party Chairman Lee Kinch and Republican Chairman Kelly Arnold square off over campus concealed carry, coming to Kansas universities next year. (April 14, 2016)

Under a law passed in 2012, state universities next year will have to allow concealed weapons across college campuses in areas – including classrooms, athletic events, dorms and dining halls – that are not secured with guards and metal detectors. No permits or training will be required to carry.

Democratic Party Chairman Lee Kinch said that’s insane and that the universities should get to decide if, when and where guns should be allowed.

My God, when I was in college back in the early ’60s, if you’d suggested bringing guns on the campus, you’d have been locked up in a mental institution.

Lee Kinch, Kansas Democratic Party chairman

“My God, when I was in college back in the early ’60s, if you’d suggested bringing guns on the campus, you’d have been locked away into a mental institution,” said Kinch, a Wichita attorney.

Republican Chairman Kelly Arnold, who is also the Sedgwick County clerk, said the Second Amendment guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms applies to the university, just as it does to anywhere else.

“The federal court, the U.S. Supreme Court, said this is very clearly defined, your right to be able to have a firearm,” Arnold said. “They’ve also said it’s your right to be able to protect yourself and be able to carry a firearm if you feel like you need that for your defense.”

Kinch said that’s a misinterpretation of the Second Amendment.

“The Constitution may not say that regents can control students bringing guns on the campus. It doesn’t need to,” Kinch said. “The regents institutions have the right to control education, and the question is whether or not bringing guns on campus is conducive to a good education.”

They (Democrats) just like to step on the constitutional rights of individuals.

Kelly Arnold, Kansas Republican Party chairman

Replied Arnold: “They (Democrats) just like to step on the constitutional rights of individuals.”

Tax policy

The two also clashed on Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax policy, which eliminated state income tax for owners of farms, limited liability companies and closely held corporations.

“To help those small businesses help grow an economy, taxes were cut for them, so they can take that money and reinvest it back into their businesses,” Arnold said. “I have heard story after story from people that have been able to take that money and been able to buy new equipment, been able to hire additional employees and grow their businesses. That’s what the goal of that is.”

He urged students not to pay attention to the frequent news stories about the state coming up short of its revenue estimates month after month.

If you look at it, we’re actually taking in more money than we did the year before, and that’s part of the tax policy. The problem is the spending.

Kelly Arnold, Kansas Republican Party chairman

“If you look at it, we’re actually taking in more money than we did the year before, and that’s part of the tax policy,” Arnold said. “The problem is the spending. And that is something that is driving the debate in Topeka these last couple of years, is how much money we should be spending on different programs.”

Democrats, he said, “strongly favor networks that live off the government.”

Kinch objected to what he called “the Republicans’ use of the tax code to move wealth up” to the richest Kansans.

I don’t pay state income taxes. My legal assistant does. You think that’s fair? I don’t know anybody who’d believe that’s fair.

Lee Kinch, Kansas Democratic Party chairman

“I don’t pay state income taxes. My legal assistant does,” Kinch said. “You think that’s fair? I don’t know anybody who’d believe that’s fair.”

And he said the monthly revenue reports are important because they affect people’s lives, especially college students.

“Just in February, we had a $53 million shortfall in revenue because of those irresponsible tax cuts,” Kinch said. “And what did the governor announce then? He’s going to cut higher education … by 3 percent, $17 million. This is something the Democrats are appalled at.

“The state is losing, in terms of revenue, $250 million a year. We’re approaching a billion dollars lost revenue because of those tax cuts. We want to revisit that issue. We want it repealed.”

Services or tax relief

Student Sarah Lindsey, who runs a small windshield and dent repair business with her husband, jumped into the fray and said she’d rather have good state services than the money the couple saves in taxes.

“I would absolutely gladly pay the tax I don’t pay anymore,” she told Arnold. “Though I currently don’t have children, say, in the school system, I still benefit from the society being smarter, being better, having food, having shelter.”

Arnold invited her to send a check to the state if she really wants to pay more taxes.

“Right, but where would it go?” Lindsey replied. “Because I’ve actually asked that question to my accountant every year.”

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