Topeka A Kansas House committee voted by the narrowest of margins Wednesday not to advance a bill that would have exempted the University of Kansas hospital complex in Kansas City, Kan., or any other public health care facility, from an upcoming requirement to allow people to carry concealed firearms in those buildings.
The bill failed to advance when the committee split evenly, 11-11, on a motion to send it to the full House. Committee chairmen typically do not vote on such motions unless they are needed to break a tie, but in this case, Chairman John Barker, R-Abilene, declined to cast a tie-breaking vote.
Barker had sponsored an amendment that would have expanded the exemption to include all publicly owned hospitals, nursing homes and mental health centers in Kansas. Debate on that amendment began Tuesday and carried over into Wednesday, but it eventually failed on an unrecorded voice vote.
Some members of the committee who voted no said they had been deluged by emails from gun rights advocates overnight urging them to reject that amendment.
Other amendments to extend the right to carry concealed weapons — in public or subsidized rental housing and into public facilities financed by STAR bonds — also failed on close votes.
Wednesday's vote in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee deals a severe setback to efforts to roll back the concealed-carry mandate that is scheduled to take effect July 1.
Earlier in the session, a Senate committee voted not to advance a bill that would have extended indefinitely the exemption for college and university campuses as well as all other public buildings owned by local governments.
A similar bill is still pending in the House committee, but even supporters of that bill concede it does not have enough votes to advance. It was believed that the narrower bill dealing only with the KU hospital complex stood a better chance.
The KU hospital is operated by a quasi-public entity, the KU Hospital Authority. The hospital itself is not publicly funded, but it occupies the same space as the KU Medical Center, the university's medical school, which is publicly funded.
Hospital officials had pleaded for the exemption, saying that without it KU would be the only hospital in the Kansas City metropolitan region where concealed weapons would be allowed. They argued concealed weapons would not only put patients and staff at risk, but would also put the hospital at a competitive disadvantage in the market.
Gun rights advocates, however, argued that despite the presence of a campus police force, there is not enough security on the sprawling complex to protect patients and staff from others who might bring weapons onto the complex.