Lawrence school board asks legislators to consider gun control, anti-tobacco measures in 2020

photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo

The Lawrence Board of Education meeting room at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive, is pictured in this file photo from Feb. 25, 2019.

The Lawrence school board wants the Kansas Legislature this year to consider adding new gun control measures and making it harder for students to access tobacco products.

In its priority list for the 2020 legislative session, the school board said it wants Kansas lawmakers to consider those types of policies in an effort to improve student wellness and safety. The school board approved the list in December, and local lawmakers will formally receive it during the annual Legislative Priorities Breakfast on Friday morning at Maceli’s, 1031 New Hampshire St.

Regarding firearms, the school board specifically asked lawmakers to consider a “red flag” law, which allows relatives or police to petition for a court order to remove firearms from someone who may be at risk of causing harm.

The board also asked for the closing of the “background check loophole.” The loophole, which is also referred to as the “gun show loophole,” allows for the private sale of firearms without a background check being conducted on the buyer.

School board President Melissa Johnson said in an email to the Journal-World that the board supports such laws not only to keep schools safe, but also to make students’ lives safer outside of school.

“Our scholars live, work and play here,” Johnson said. “When they go to school, their concerns don’t simply disappear.”

The district has seen several incidents in recent years of students bringing guns to school. On Wednesday, police and school staff confiscated a loaded firearm from a student at Lawrence High School. From April 2018 through Wednesday, the district has had six confirmed incidents of students bringing guns to schools or exchanging them on school grounds, according to previous Journal-World reporting.

Johnson said a red flag law would be a step toward preventing mass shooting events, including school shootings.

“If we can petition to temporarily remove guns from owners who are at risk of harming themselves or others, it’s another step towards decreasing gun violence and the trauma associated with it,” Johnson said. “When we hear of unfortunate events such as school shootings, we find that in most situations the warning signs were present.”

As for tobacco products, the school board asked the lawmakers to consider restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes, also known as vaping, but it didn’t specify what kinds of vaping-related bills it would like to see.

The school board also asked legislators to consider raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 at the state level. A federal law raising the minimum age to 21 was signed by President Donald Trump last month, and the Food and Drug Administration notes on its website that it is now illegal for retailers around the U.S. to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. But Johnson said it should still be a priority for state lawmakers, because there are still questions about how the federal law will be enforced.

“While it has been passed at the federal level, it will still take some time to fully implement,” Johnson said. “It is our request that we can pass it at the local level sooner rather than later.”

Many other issues the board asked lawmakers to consider are carried over from the 2019 iteration of the priority list, board member Shannon Kimball said during the board’s Dec. 9 meeting. Those legislative priorities include providing adequate and equitable funding to public schools as outlined in the state’s constitution, keeping school board elections nonpartisan and supporting local control over school curriculum.

The school board’s full list of legislative priorities can be found on the school district’s website,

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