TOPEKA (AP) — Gun-rights lawmakers in Kansas showed Tuesday that they might still have enough clout to ensure that people can carry concealed weapons on college campuses starting in July by keeping a bill to block the policy stuck in a legislative committee.
The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee refused on an unrecorded voice vote to advance the anti-concealed carry measure to the full Senate for further debate. The bill would give universities, colleges and public hospitals and clinics a permanent exemption from a 2013 law that allowed gun owners 21 and older to carry concealed weapons into more public buildings.
The law granted universities, colleges and hospitals a four-year exemption from the mandate and opposition to allowing concealed weapons has grown increasingly vocal as the end of the exemption has neared. Under the law, concealed guns could not be banned from public buildings unless they have adequate security, such as guards or metal detectors — which could prove costly.
The Senate committee’s action doesn’t kill the repeal bill outright, and a House committee planned to have a hearing on its own measure Wednesday. But the Senate panel’s vote was the first test of whether a shift in the Legislature after last year’s elections and strong opposition from university communities would prompt lawmakers to rethink concealed carry on campuses.
“We went through all of this when the law was originally passed — we went through this whole process,” said Republican Sen. Bud Estes, of Dodge City. “It’s just a matter of Second Amendment rights.”
Sen. Jeff Longbine, an Emporia Republican who supports reversing the concealed carry policy, said he believes backers of the idea will get “other bites at the apple.”
But Democratic Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, of Wichita, a leading sponsor of the repeal measure, said she hopes legislators look at reinstating requirements for a state permit and training to carry concealed, which were repealed by a 2015 law. Other backers of the repeal bill treated the Senate committee’s vote as a significant setback.
“It’s incredibly clear who the senators on this committee work for, which is the gun lobby and not for the people,” said Megan Jones, a University of Kansas graduate student. “I’m angry because we deserve to live in a gun-free environment.”
Kansas is one of eight states that allow or are set to allow concealed weapons on campus, according to the National Rifle Association. The group said Maryland and Missouri also have proposals to ban it.
Voters last year ousted two dozen of Gov. Sam Brownback’s conservative Republican allies from the Legislature, giving Democrats and moderate Republicans more power.
But there’s also strong support for gun rights throughout the state. In 2010, an amendment to the state constitution reiterating that gun ownership is an individual right passed with 88 percent of the vote. And last year, an amendment aimed at protecting hunting rights passed with 81 percent of the vote.
Brownback, who signed the 2013 law, also remains a strong gun-rights supporter.
“There are always concerns any time you’re talking about Second Amendment issues, but it still remains a Second Amendment right,” Brownback said during an interview Tuesday. “It’s a nation of laws, and we’ve got a constitution.”