In the wake of the recent mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school, the chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents predicted another heated battle in the Kansas Legislature over allowing concealed guns to be carried on university campuses across the state.
State Sen.-elect Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, already has said he will push for a bill that allows people with concealed-carry permits to take their weapons into public buildings. In the 2012 session, when he was a member of the Kansas House, Knox got a similar bill through the House after it was amended to allow universities and hospitals to exempt themselves. However, the bill died in a Senate committee.
Knox and others argue that preventing law-abiding people with concealed-carry permits from taking their weapons into public buildings is an invitation to criminals to illegally carry guns into those buildings. University officials take the other side of the argument, saying that increasing the number of guns on campuses would increase the risk of violence and possibly prove confusing in an emergency situation.
This debate, in various forms, is taking place all across the nation since 26 people, including 20 elementary students were killed in Newtown earlier this month. It’s an important debate that also should include discussions about the role that mental health treatment and what many people see as a culture of violence in America contribute to such tragic incidents. Americans seem to have a special relationship with their guns that isn’t common in other cultures and there may be something officials can learn from looking at laws in other countries.
Regents Chairman Tim Emert said the nine-member board will continue to oppose concealed carry on campuses, and acknowledged it will be interesting to see what direction the Legislature takes on the issue in the 2013 session. Both the Kansas House and Senate will have many new members and a generally more conservative slant.
The overriding goal of any discussion about weapons is to try to increase the safety of people in Kansas and throughout the nation. While some advocates are certain that having more weapons in more locations will accomplish that goal, university officials and others are right to push back and offer other alternatives.