Kansas House again rejects Lawrence lawmaker’s attempt to repeal campus carry

photo by: File photo

Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, urges her fellow House members to pass an amendment to repeal a law requiring colleges and universities to allow people to carry concealed firearms on campus on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, at the Statehouse in Topeka. Ballard attempted to pass a similar amendment on Tuesday, March 26, 2019, but it also failed.

Story updated at 2:29 p.m. Wednesday

A Lawrence lawmaker again attempted to repeal part of a state law allowing concealed carry of firearms on college campuses, but her attempt failed.

During debate on the floor of the Kansas House of Representatives on Tuesday, Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, introduced an ultimately unsuccessful amendment to House Bill 2326, which would allow the state to recognize Kansas residents’ gun permits issued in other states and lower the age of concealed carry from 21 to 18.

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Ballard’s amendment would have added the state’s post-secondary institutions to a list of places exempt from the state’s concealed carry law, which mandates that most government-owned buildings in Kansas allow people to carry concealed firearms unless there is adequate security in the building to prevent anyone from bringing in a weapon. She attempted a similar amendment in 2018.

Rep. Dennis “Boog” Highberger, D-Lawrence, spoke in favor of Ballard’s amendment on Tuesday. He said the bill would not prohibit campus carry outright but would give the state’s universities and colleges the opportunity to choose whether to allow it.

He said the law has not yet led to any severe accidents or shootings on campuses, but he knows communities with college campuses do not support it.

“If you believe in local control, why don’t you let the citizens of my town have their say?” Highberger said.

Ballard said the law has hurt campus communities in other ways as well.

“What we have had are faculty members leaving and voicing their opposition to having guns on campus,” she said, mentioning that faculty members fear students could be angry about grades and attack them. “They don’t want to have to carry themselves and that’s what they are most concerned about. They don’t want to be forced to carry a gun to counter someone else coming in with a gun as well.”

Additionally, Ballard said some parents have decided to send their children to out-of-state or private institutions that do not permit concealed carry of firearms.

Ballard’s amendment failed with a 43-75 vote. All of the Democratic lawmakers representing parts of Douglas County in the House voted to approve the amendment. Rep. Jim Karleskint, R-Tonganoxie, voted against it.

Rep. Eric Smith, R-Burlington, said that during the debate when the original law was created opponents suggested there would be “anarchy” and “shootouts” in Kansas. But that has not happened, he said.

Back in Lawrence, the amendment did not sit well with some Republican students. Garrett Miller, chairman for the KU College Republicans, said in a statement released Tuesday that Ballard’s attempted amendment would “recklessly endanger students.”

Alex Dwyer, another member of the group, said he felt safer on campus with campus carry in place.

“As a senior at the University of Kansas who has been on campus before and after campus concealed carry took effect, I feel safer today at the University of Kansas than I did during my freshman year,” Dwyer said. “I am extremely disappointed that elected Democrats in the Legislature continue their attacks on Kansas college students’ constitutional rights.”

After Ballard’s amendment failed, Rep. Brandon Woodard, D-Lenexa, who works as a fundraiser for KU Endowment, attempted adding a narrower amendment prohibiting campus carry for gun owners without concealed carry permits, but it failed as well.

The underlying bill received final approval from the House on Wednesday with an 83-41 vote. The bill will be sent to the Senate for consideration.

Gun safety activists Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America decried the bill in a statement released on Wednesday. Jo Ella Hoye, leader of the Kansas chapter, said she hoped the Senate would reject the bill.

“This bill is the exact opposite of the gun safety laws that our lawmakers should be prioritizing,” Hoye said. “We haven’t forgotten about the dangerous policy that allows guns in our campus buildings, and this legislation would only exacerbate that danger.”

Correction: A previous version of this article included incomplete details about an amendment proposed by Rep. Brandon Woodard. His amendment would have prohibited campus carry for anyone without a concealed carry permit.

Contact Dylan Lysen

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