Topeka — The Kansas House on Friday advanced legislation that would allow concealed carry license holders to bring their guns into public buildings, but amendments were approved that would give state universities, hospitals and nursing homes the ability to ban the weapons.
State Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City, Kan., said she didn't want to stand before a college classroom in which some of her students, who may be upset with a grade or assignment, could be armed.
"I want to teach history. I don't want to be history," Winn said.
The amendment allowing colleges to opt out seemed in trouble until enough legislators requested a roll call vote. Then it passed 93-23.
Under House Bill 2353, people who have a concealed carry permit would be allowed to bring a gun 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. Because of the additional security costs this would entail, many public buildings will have to allow concealed carry if the measure is enacted into law.
State Rep. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, said the current ban on guns in public buildings, marked by a sign, was an invitation to criminals. "Criminals pay attention because they know there won't be any law-abiding citizens carrying guns in those buildings that are posted," Knox said.
But representatives of colleges, cities, hospitals, counties and other groups lobbied hard against the bill. Andy Tompkins, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Board of Regents, said allowing weapons on campuses would increase the risk of violence and complicate the job of police.
Knox brought the amendment concerning post-secondary schools, although he opposed it.
"Statistically, if there is concealed carry allowed on campus, crimes goes down," he said. But Winn said there was no study that showed a link between concealed carry and lower crime rates.
Under the amendment, the governing body of a post-secondary institution can decide if it wants to be exempt from the proposed law. The exemption would last four years and then have to be reconsidered.
Another amendment exempted hospitals, such as Kansas University Hospital. Several legislators said hospitals are high-stress environments where allowing concealed weapons would distract from quality patient care.
State Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, said that while she supported concealed carry, she opposed the state telling local governments what to do.
Mah offered an amendment to require the state pay local governments if they decided to put in the extra security needed to keep concealed carry weapons out of their buildings. "If we think we need to be a nanny Legislature, then we need to get our checkbooks out and pay for it," she said. But her proposal was defeated.
The House advanced the legislation on a voice vote. A final vote on the issue is expected Monday. If approved, it will go to the Senate for consideration.