Gun-rights advocates sent a strong signal Wednesday that they still have enough clout in the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature to make sure that concealed firearms are allowed in hospitals and on university campuses starting this summer.
The House Federal and State Affairs Committee rejected a bill that would have allowed the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, to continue banning concealed guns. A state law mandates that state universities, public hospitals and mental health clinics allow concealed weapons into buildings starting in July, unless the buildings have "adequate" security measures such as guards or metal detectors.
The committee's 11-11 vote keeps the bill stuck in committee. The measure was the narrowest version of anti-concealed carry legislation before lawmakers, and a Senate committee rejected a broader bill earlier this month.
"It is about our God-given rights to protect ourselves — myself, my family, my property," said Rep. Trevor Jacobs, a Fort Scott Republican.
Supporters of expansive concealed-carry laws contend they're in keeping with the gun rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They also argue that barring guns — and posting a sign to that effect — won't deter criminals bent on violence. Ramping up security could prove expensive, so guns are likely to be allowed in most buildings.
Gun-rights advocates even proposed two unsuccessful amendments to the bill to expand gun rights. One would have prevented landlords providing government-subsidized housing from banning their tenants from having guns. Another would have required private businesses that can now ban concealed weapons to allow them on their premises if they're located within a development financed partly with bonds backed by state sales tax revenues.
Supporters of limiting concealed carry said the Second Amendment allows reasonable restrictions on where guns can be carried. Both hospital officials and university officials have expressed strong misgivings about allowing concealed guns into their buildings, and opposition has grown in recent months.
The House committee's vote came a day after the faculty senate at Wichita State University adopted a resolution expressing its opposition to allowing concealed weapons on campus. Critics of concealed carry on campuses planned to come to the Statehouse on Thursday to lobby legislators for change.
"A skinny little guy like me can walk around these places without feeling fear," said Rep. Boog Highberger, a Lawrence Democrat. "I don't understand why so many other people are so afraid that they feel compelled to carry a firearm into these places at all times."
Kansas began allowing people to carry concealed guns in 2007. Two years ago, the state stopped requiring people who want to carry concealed guns to obtain a permit and undergo eight hours of training. Kansas is one of eight states that allow or are set to allow concealed weapons on campus, according to the National Rifle Association.