Fear, unanswered questions dominate at guns on campus info session
More than 200 Kansas University students, faculty and staff turned out Tuesday for an informational session about concealed carry coming to campus.
KU’s University Senate organized and moderated the gathering, where some information about the imminent change in law was shared but many specific questions had to go unanswered because policies that will guide implementation of the law have yet to be written.
Many speakers expressed fear — of mass shootings, of accidental firearm discharges, of arguments escalating into shootings, of a loss of academic freedom, of increased suicide rates and more.
Here were two examples, from either side of the debate, of questions with no answers right now.
Miranda Ganter, a sophomore from Houston, said she’s an RA, or resident assistant, in Oliver Hall and already sometimes feels afraid to knock on doors of residents whom she suspects of getting drunk in their rooms.
“I don’t want to approach that resident if I know they have a gun,” Ganter said. “How am I supposed to do my job if I can’t even talk to that resident?”
Tyson Merritt, a freshman from Goddard, said he recently bought his first firearm. He added, in case anyone was worried, that it was currently hundreds of miles away from KU.
“What specifically can or will be done to deter a shooter from attacking me or anyone else in this room if we are not allowed to carry some means of self-defense?” Merritt said.
University Senate president Mike Williams, associate professor of journalism, said his goal for university governance was to collect feedback from campus and share it with the powers that be, including KU administration and state lawmakers.
“I want to be very clear that the university is not in a position to change the law,” Williams said.
Tuesday’s information session was a first step, he said. Smaller group discussions will be scheduled in the spring. Students had the opportunity to take an online survey last month, and a similar online survey is open this month to employees.
Williams — who personally does not support allowing concealed carry on campus — also urged attendees not to accept that the law is a done deal and to contact their legislators to voice opposition to it.
Under state law, public universities in Kansas must allow concealed weapons on campus beginning July 1, 2017.
The Kansas Board of Regents has drafted amendments to its current weapons policy and is expected to vote on the policy in January. Guided by the overarching Regents policy, individual universities will craft their own, more specific policies for their respective campuses.
Presumably, those policies will address some of the other questions posed at Tuesday’s meeting, including these:
• What will be done to protect children on campus, such as those visiting museums or attending Hilltop Child Development Center?
• Will a faculty member have the right to prohibit guns in his or her own office or classroom?
• Considering that suicides account for most gun deaths in the United States, what will KU do to beef up mental health support for students and employees?
• Where will the money come from for things like adequate security measures or additional counseling services once the law is implemented?
• Could KU require some kind of gun safety and awareness training, like the currently mandated alcohol and sexual assault training for students?
• How can KU be sure that whatever it enacts will actually protect people?
In a concern echoed by more than one professor, math instructor Satya Mandal asked how much he will be able to control his own class.
“Teaching when somebody has a gun in my class is an infringement on my academic freedom,” he said. “I plan to buy a bulletproof vest and a helmet. And I’m not joking.”