Campus-carry repeal bill fails to advance out of Senate committee

No guns allowed signs are posted on doors leading into Wescoe Hall on the University of Kansas campus on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. Jayhawk Boulevard and Strong Hall are reflected in the glass.

? A bill that would let colleges, universities and local governments continue to ban concealed weapons in their buildings failed to advance out of a Senate committee Tuesday, dealing a major setback to supporters of gun restrictions in public buildings.

“I’m incredibly angry because the support for this bill was overwhelming,” said Megan Jones, a University of Kansas graduate student and co-president of the Kansas Coalition for a Gun Free Campus.

“The universities community and the hospital community and all the students overwhelmingly support extending this exemption, and it’s incredibly clear who the senators on this committee work for, which is the gun lobby and not the people,” she said.

Gun rights advocates who opposed the bill, however, were elated.

“A win for the 2nd amendment,” Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kelly Arnold posted on Twitter.

Sen. Jacob LaTurner, R-Pittsburg, who chairs the Federal and State Affairs Committee, had given no indication earlier that he intended to bring the bill up for a vote on Tuesday. Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine, R-Emporia, who serves on the committee, said he wasn’t present for the vote because he had been told it wouldn’t happen until Thursday.

But during Tuesday’s meeting, LaTurner called up the bill and opened the floor to motions. Sen. Lynn Rodgers, D-Wichita, offered a motion to recommend it favorably to the full Senate. His motion failed on an unrecorded voice vote.

Later in the day, Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, was reluctant to discuss how she voted on the bill or why.

“I don’t know how that vote went. It was hard to tell what was going on,” she said as she walked away from a reporter.

But Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, was more forthcoming, saying he voted against advancing the bill because he believes the bill is unnecessary.

“The tragedy is, we’re conflating two issues,” he said. “I recognize the emotion that’s involved in the topic, but the data doesn’t bear out that it’s warranted at a level where you would restrict someone’s constitutional rights.”

Although technically the bill remains alive in the Federal and State Affairs Committee, its chances of ever coming out are now greatly diminished. But a similar bill is pending in the House and is scheduled to be heard in that chamber’s Federal and State Affairs Committee at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

In 2013, lawmakers passed a bill allowing anyone who is legally qualified to own a firearm to carry concealed weapons in any public building, excluding K-12 school buildings, unless they had adequate security to prevent anyone from bringing weapons into those buildings.

But it also allowed cities, counties and public colleges and universities to apply for a four-year exemption to give them enough time to make plans for how they would implement the new law. Those exemptions expire July 1.

Senate Bill 53 and House Bill 2074 would have extended those exemptions indefinitely.

On Thursday, the same House committee will conduct a hearing on another bill that would specifically exempt the KU hospital complex from the gun law.