KU Senate members lampoon law allowing concealed carry on campus

Students and faculty suggest asking legislators to revisit statute, finding ways to exempt more buildings

At their meeting Thursday, members of the University Senate at Kansas University talked about the state law that will allow concealed carry of guns at state universities starting in 2017.

The overwhelming sentiment of the students, faculty and staff members who spoke aloud: We have to fight it.

“To allow guns in the classroom, that is really a bad law — bad, bad, very bad,” said Geraldo Sousa, a professor in the Department of English. “I think we need to convey that to Topeka.”

Paul Laird, professor of musicology, called for the University Senate to send a resolution to state legislators expressing “disgust” about the law.

“With this policy being foisted on us by Topeka, I don’t see this university remaining the same place,” he said. “I think we need to speak out.”

Student Senator Harrison Baker said he’s had fellow students ask him what will happen when a school shooting occurs at KU.

“Not ‘if’ — ‘when’ it happens,” Baker said. “I don’t think the Legislature realizes that the people who live and breathe on this campus have taken such a fatalistic attitude. … Concealed carry is not assuaging these fears.”

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, who attended the meeting, did not state her opinion on the law.

When asked, she did say she thought it was worthwhile for the KU community to share its views with state legislators and the Kansas Board of Regents, although she was unsure whether it would lead to any changes regarding the law.

“To my knowledge, the universities have not organized a lobbying effort, nor do I know of any effort like that by the Board of Regents,” Gray-Little said.

“There has not been a voice from large numbers of people on campus.”

This month the Kansas Board of Regents is seeking feedback from universities on proposed amendments to its statewide weapons policy, which deal with implementing changes that would occur after July 1, 2017.

On that date, when an exemption to the current state law allowing guns in public places expires for universities, concealed carry will be allowed on college campuses. Universities could only prohibit concealed carry in buildings outfitted with “adequate security measures,” such as metal detectors and guards, to screen for weapons.

Some of Thursday’s University Senate discussion centered on ideas for getting around that.

Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, professor of aerospace engineering, suggested adding language to the Board of Regents policy that would exclude buildings that pose a “disproportionate threat” should a firearm be discharged within — such as a stadium packed densely with people who might stampede and science buildings that house substances such as chemicals or pressurized gas.

“There (is) a non-trivial number of buildings on this campus that could indeed be closed,” Barrett-Gonzalez said.

Other members wondered about the possibility of declaring classrooms weapons-free but allowing concealed carry in hallways, though university attorney Sara Trower said the law as written doesn’t allow for that because it’s framed in terms of entire buildings.

There are students on campus who do support concealed carry because they believe it enables them to protect themselves, student body vice-president Zach George said. George said he does not necessarily agree with those students but that it’s important to represent them.

A member of the University Senate weapons committee, tasked with studying the issue, reminded that the committee wants to hear all views and that it’s important to hear both sides. University Senate president and professor of journalism Mike Williams is chairman of that committee.