Editorial: No guns in our schools

Kansas lawmakers should move on from their efforts to clear the way for teachers to carry concealed weapons in the state’s schools.

Insurance companies have made clear that they believe arming teachers increases the risk of an incident. And judging from recent protest marches and testimony offered at a hearing Tuesday, Kansans aren’t big fans of the idea either.

Yet, Kansas legislators continue to look for a way to get public school staff to carry guns.

A 2013 law already gives Kansas teachers the option to carry concealed firearms in school, if the school district approves it. But none of the state’s 286 school districts has adopted a policy allowing concealed weapons, in part because of insurance liability concerns.

Shortly after the law passed in 2013, EMC Insurance Companies, one of the largest providers of insurance to school districts in the state, released a statement that it would not insure schools that allow employees to carry concealed handguns because of what the company determined to be a heightened liability risk.

On Tuesday morning, the House Insurance Committee heard testimony on House Bill 2789. The bill would prohibit insurance companies from refusing to provide coverage to districts that choose to allow employees to carry concealed handguns.

Rep. Blake Carpenter, one of the authors of the bill, said it’s intended to help small, rural districts that can’t afford to hire school resource officers.

“The individuals who come from large metropolitan areas can afford to have an SRO, versus some of the other members in the committee that come from rural communities, and they cannot afford to have an SRO on staff, and law enforcement help could be anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes away,” he told the Insurance Committee. “And that could be a serious and grave danger to the population inside the school.”

But most of the testimony on Tuesday was in opposition to the bill. In fact, there were so many people in opposition to the bill that many of them, including students from Lawrence High School, did not get to speak.

Later in the day, State Rep. Brett Parker offered an amendment that would have repealed the 2013 law allowing for concealed carry in schools. The amendment failed in a 79-44 vote that fell heavily along party lines.

There are valid concerns about safety in Kansas schools and there are reasonable steps legislators could take to better protect students from future gun violence. Arming teachers isn’t among them.

Legislators should heed the risk warnings issued by EMC Insurance and abandon House Bill 2789.