Kansas Regents draft policy to prepare for concealed guns on college campuses

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus, pictured in May 2015.

The countdown is on for concealed carry coming to Kansas college campuses, and until now higher education leaders have not shared any plans for dealing with it.

A Kansas Board of Regents committee now has a draft of proposed amendments to its weapons policy and is soliciting feedback from universities statewide.

The draft policy clarifies what is and isn’t allowed under the law, orders campuses to provide secure storage for weapons and instructs universities to determine which — if any — of their respective buildings to equip with security measures to prevent concealed carry.

The full board tentatively expects to vote on the overarching statewide policy in December, with a goal of adopting it before the end of the calendar year, Regents spokeswoman Breeze Richardson said.

“This is laying the groundwork for the real work, which is at the university level,” she said. “The campuses would then have a year for policy and procedure development.”

Richardson emphasized that — albeit unpopular among many in the higher ed community — the Legislature made the law, so the Regents and universities now must determine how to most smoothly implement it, which will take some time.

“Should the law be amended between now and July 1, 2017, the board and universities will certainly make adjustments to accommodate those changes,” according to a board memo accompanying the draft, “but in order to give the campuses sufficient time to develop policies, write procedures, train constituencies and otherwise prepare for implementation, amendments to the board’s policy on weapons possession need to be made soon.”

Key points from the proposed new weapons policy:

• Open carry of any weapon on campus — including outdoor spaces and inside buildings — is prohibited, and signs must be posted at building entrances to communicate that.

• As allowed by the law, individuals who are at least 21 and otherwise eligible to carry a concealed firearm may do so on campus except in buildings or areas with security measures preventing concealed carry within.

• Each university must develop and follow policies and procedures for the safe possession, use and storage of such weapons. Those procedures must include “detailed provisions” about how and where to report suspected violations, how to educate the university community about the rules as well as “locally available firearm safety instruction.”

• No weapon may be displayed on campus except “in those instances where necessary for self-defense or transferring to safe storage.”

• Every state university must provide a secure storage location, such as its public safety office, for the safe storage of the handgun of any individual who lawfully possesses that handgun on campus. At a residence hall that does not have adequate security measures, residents who elect not to use the university’s storage facility must provide their own secure storage device and get it pre-approved by the university. Firearms must be stored when not on the person of the owner.

• If universities enact permanent or temporary security measures at event spaces such as stadiums or arenas and plan to prohibit concealed carry there, notice to event-goers must be included on tickets for admission.

• Anyone who violates the rules must leave campus — with his or her weapon — immediately and possibly face additional discipline in accordance with university codes of conduct.

Given the complexity of and past confusion about the multiple laws and exemptions leading to concealed carry on campus, the Regents also prepared a fact sheet summarizing those.

A Kansas law that became effective in 2013 stated that any public building lacking security measures such as metal detectors or guards must allow concealed guns. Universities got a four-year exemption, but that expires July 1, 2017.

Also now in Kansas, following an additional law that went into effect this summer, a permit is no longer required to carry a concealed gun.

At Kansas University, the University Senate executive committee talked about the draft Tuesday, and the full University Senate plans to discuss it Thursday.

Part of Tuesday’s discussion — as has been typical at KU — involved exasperation over the law.

Ultimately the group came away with two suggestions for the Regents: Include language addressing the possibility that some buildings pose a disproportionate risk of harm should a firearm be discharged in them, such as science labs or engineering. Also clarify the legal mechanism being used to differentiate between open and concealed carry, to be sure the law does in fact allow schools to ban open carry.