Faith-based advocacy group mounts statewide campaign against campus carry
photo by: Sara Shepherd
A faith-based group is mobilizing in hopes of overturning the Kansas law that will allow campus carry of concealed weapons beginning next summer.
Lawrence-based Kansas Interfaith Action representatives are visiting state universities to increase awareness of the issue, recruit activists and raise money this semester, according to Rabbi Moti Rieber, Kansas Interfaith Action executive director. The group plans to lobby the Legislature to change the law once representatives return to session next semester.
The multifaith issue-advocacy organization’s mission is putting faith into action “by educating, engaging and advocating on behalf of people of faith and the public regarding critical social, economic, and climate justice issues,” according to its website.
“We have taken on the campaign against campus carry,” Rieber said. “There’s been opposition to it around the state, but not really connected and not really organized, so we’re taking on a strategic role.”
Rieber said a recent meeting at Ecumenical Campus Ministries at the University of Kansas drew about 40 people. He said he’s visited Wichita State University and plans a trip to Kansas State University, too.
Campus carry affects university students, faculty and staff but also parents, grandparents and others outside the university communities, Rieber said.
“There’s a lot of people in Kansas who have a stake in this,” he said. “A lot of people feel like it’s a done deal, but that’s not true because the law hasn’t come into effect yet.”
As it stands, the law will go into effect July 1, 2017.
Universities are preparing by drafting policies and procedures to implement the new law on their respective campuses. The Kansas Board of Regents is expected to review and approve policies in October and November.
State university leaders, including KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, have publicly said they personally oppose having guns on their campuses.
However, Gray-Little has called the possibility of the law being changed “unlikely” and stated that university administration does not plan lobbying efforts, though members of the university community may do so as individuals.
Rieber said the issue of campus carry is a fit for faith leaders, many of whom come from “peace traditions.”
“The introduction of weaponry in society is very troubling for people trying to build a better world,” he said. “Pastors are really on the front lines of this, because when somebody gets killed or commits suicide we’re the ones who have to bury the dead, we’re the ones who have to sit with the family.”
In 2013, Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill lawmakers passed that year requiring that concealed carry of handguns be allowed in all publicly owned buildings unless the owners of those buildings provide adequate security — such as metal detectors or guards — to prevent anyone from bringing weapons into them.
K-12 public school buildings were exempted from that law. Cities, counties and public colleges and universities were allowed to exempt themselves for four years, giving them time to plan for security measures and develop new policies. That exemption ends next year.
Kansas Interfaith Action plans an event this weekend in Lawrence.
Concert Against Campus Carry, planned in conjunction with the national Concert Across America to End Gun Violence initiative, is set for 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Liberty Hall. Doors open at 7 p.m.
The concert will feature Victor and Penny ukulele-and-guitar duo; Barclay Martin Ensemble folk, pop and world music; and Minimal Animal local indie rock band.