TOPEKA — Gun rights advocates on Wednesday pushed for passage of a bill that would allow concealed carry of handguns on college campuses and public buildings, such as libraries, city halls and day care centers in city facilities.
Rep. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, said after a hearing on House Bill 2353 that he thought his measure would be approved by the Legislature this year. It has won approval before in the House but hasn’t gained traction yet in the Senate.
“Currently any building, public or private, can be posted prohibiting concealed carry regardless of the level of security provided within the building,” Knox told the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.
Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, said, “We need to understand that criminals will not abide by the law of the signs. These signs are disarming only law-abiding permit licensees.”
But the measure was roundly criticized by the Kansas Board of Regents and representatives of cities and counties. The committee will continue hearing testimony on the bill today.
“The safety and security efforts of these universities would be substantially undermined, if not crippled, by the passage of House Bill 2353,” said Andy Tompkins, president and chief executive officer of the regents.
“It is our firm belief that allowing weapons on campus would significantly increase the risk of violence and harm to students, faculty and others rather than making anyone safer,” Tompkins said. The measure is opposed by Kansas University.
Under Knox’s bill, people who are licensed to carry a concealed gun would be allowed to bring a weapon into a state or city facility unless the building had adequate security measures, such as electronic screening equipment and guards, to ensure that no weapons could be brought in.
Knox has said he thought the gunman who killed 32 at Virginia Tech University in 2007 would have been stopped more quickly if someone else had been carrying a concealed weapon.
Knox said the right to possess and carry a firearm is a fundamental right and was a high priority of the Founding Fathers.
He said, “The benefits of a well-armed society included not only personal security, but national security and security from a tyrannical government as well. This was clearly the intention of the Founders. We still see that this applies today. A well-armed society is a polite society.”
But city, county and regents officials said the requirement to have security systems in place at all entrances would be cost prohibitive.
The bill “bullies us into allowing guns in our public buildings whether our elected officials or our citizens want that or not,” said Mike Taylor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City.
Under another provision, a city would be unable to prohibit concealed carry in the workplace if the employee was licensed and if the building wasn’t adequately secured. City officials said this was an intrusive reach by the state into employer-employee personnel policies.