TOPEKA — The Kansas Board of Regents fought a legislative proposal Thursday that would strip the power of public universities to set any rules about concealed weapons on campus.
In the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, opponents of the measure tangled with the National Rifle Association and the Kansas State Rifle Association, which are seeking the change. Bill supporters voiced skepticism about the intention of the universities.
House Bill 2220 would prohibit public colleges and universities from setting any policy or regulation regarding concealed weapons. Current law requires campuses to begin allowing concealed weapons this summer.
The universities have set policies ahead of weapons being allowed onto campus. The rules cover situations such as guns in backpacks and what buildings will provide security in order to prohibit weapons. The bill would effectively wipe out those rules.
“At bottom, our objection is rooted in a sincere belief that governance is best when it emanates as closely as possible from the people and institutions being governed,” said Zoe Newton, chairwoman of the Kansas Board of Regents.
Proponents of the bill argued some of the policies adopted by individual universities attempt to make concealed carry on campus more confusing and restrictive. Travis Couture-Lovelady, with the NRA, suggested the policies are put forward with the hope students will give up on carrying guns on campus.
“It’s hard to take them at their word when they say they’re just trying to put commonsense, reasonable regulations on this when they’ve been up here a number of times this year trying to completely get rid of guns on campus,” Couture-Lovelady said.
So far during the session, legislation to make any changes to concealed weapons laws hasn’t advanced. That includes a bill to exempt the University of Kansas Hospital.
Advocates of repealing or rolling back a 2013 law that will allow weapons on campuses beginning this summer had hoped the changing makeup of the Legislature would aid their cause. Voters this fall swept a number of new moderate Republicans and Democrats into the Statehouse.
In legislative hearings, opponents of the current law have outnumbered supporters. Still, bills have remained in committees.
Even if a bill advanced through the Legislature, it could face a veto from Gov. Sam Brownback. Brownback has said he isn’t inclined to revisit his support for campus carry.