Public entities in Kansas should retain the leeway to determine if concealed handguns should be banned from their facilities. Senate Bill 53 would allow this and should be approved.
In 2013, lawmakers approved a bill requiring that concealed weapons be allowed in most public buildings unless the building is equipped with adequate security to ensure that nobody can bring a weapon inside.
Public colleges and universities, along with cities and counties and other public entities, were allowed to exempt themselves from that law for four years. The exemption expires July 1. Senate Bill 53 repeals the expiration date, effectively leaving the exemption in place indefinitely.
The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee held a hearing on the bill on Thursday and a standing room only crowd turned out to speak, mostly in favor of Senate Bill 53. Most of the supporters were from Kansas colleges and universities.
“I am in full support of this bill because I don’t want to get shot,” said Megan Jones, a graduate student and instructor at the University of Kansas. “I don’t want to watch someone else get shot. I don’t want to wonder if a guy sitting in my classroom is pulling out a cellphone or a firearm.”
Jones is right. It’s hard to fathom how the KU campus is made safer by allowing students and faculty to carry guns to class and inside other buildings on campus.
Travis Couture-Lovelady, a former Republican state representative who is now a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, testified Thursday against Senate Bill 53, saying that current law is a compromise, allowing public entities to enforce a ban by implementing adequate security at public buildings to ensure no weapons can get inside. He said public entities have had four years to come up with a plan.
But Couture-Lovelady ignores the cost of implementing such security measures. City Manager Tom Markus has already said it would be cost prohibitive to implement security equipment and/or personnel at the approximately 50 public buildings the city oversees. Imagine how costly such security would be for KU buildings. And given that the cash-strapped state of Kansas has been in cut-and-slash mode the past four years, the concealed carry law amounts to an unfunded mandate for public agencies that want to reasonably restrict where guns can be carried.
Though colleges and universities were the most outspoken Thursday, several other organizations support Senate Bill 53, including the League of Kansas Municipalities, the Kansas Association of Counties and the Kansas Hospital Association. That’s a pretty strong lineup of supporters. Such deep support will be needed to take on the lobbying strength of the NRA.
Senate Bill 53 makes sense financially and it makes sense from a security standpoint. It should be approved.