Editorial: Brownback’s stunning request

There is no small amount of irony in Gov. Sam Brownback’s request for $24 million to provide armed guards and other security measures to keep concealed firearms out of the state’s mental hospitals.

Brownback was a supporter of the 2013 law that allows the carrying of concealed firearms everywhere in Kansas without a requirement for a permit or training. The law does allow public facilities to ban guns if the facility can put adequate security measures in place to prevent weapons from coming into the building.

Municipal governments, colleges and universities, and the state hospitals were given a four-year exemption to come into compliance with the law, either by allowing guns or by putting security measures in place to prevent them. That exemption expires June 30. Colleges, hospitals and local governments have asked that the exemption be extended, but, so far, their requests have fallen on deaf ears. Brownback has shown no support for such requests.

That’s why it’s a little stunning for Brownback’s office to turn around and ask for millions in state funds — funds the state doesn’t have, by the way — to put security in place at the state hospitals in Larned and Osawatomie and in facilities for the developmentally disabled in Parsons and Topeka.

Brownback’s request includes $810,000 for one-time costs of buying metal detectors and firearms for the security guards and $11.7 million a year in ongoing costs for the salaries of 180 full-time positions to staff the security posts. Brandon Smith, Brownback’s policy director, tried to frame the governor’s request as simply adhering to the gun law.

Brownback has a clear track record of supporting concealed carry as a constitutional right. He has never wavered in his support for the law, even as local government, hospital and university officials lobbied for changes to the law.

“We’re saying that if you want to do that in this state, then you don’t have to get the permission slip from the government,” Brownback said in April 2015, when he signed the law removing the training requirement for people seeking to carry concealed weapons. “It is a constitutional right, and we’re removing a barrier to that right.”

Except the governor now wants to put a barrier to stop people from exercising their constitutional right at state hospitals.

Brownback’s request exposes the serious challenges the loosely written concealed-carry law faces in Kansas. Rather than spend millions to satisfy the needs of one entity out of thousands facing gun-related security concerns, perhaps the Legislature should look again at the concealed carry law and try to address the multitude of concerns faced by hospitals, schools and governments throughout the state.