The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday approved a policy allowing anyone lawfully able to carry a concealed handgun to do so on public university campuses beginning next year.
Individual universities now will draft their own policies.
The Regents’ policy still bans weapons generally on campus, as well as open carry handguns, but beginning July 1, 2017, anyone 21 years or older who qualifies to carry a concealed handgun under state law can do so on campuses. It may be a violation under the new policy to pull that handgun in defense of someone else, but not in self-defense.
The policy change came with a unanimous vote by regents.
Though the Kansas Legislature in 2013 enacted a law prohibiting state and municipal bodies from banning concealed handguns in public places, college campuses haven’t had to worry. That will change in July 2017 when a four-year exemption for college campuses expires. At that point, campuses must allow students, faculty, staff and visitors to carry concealed weapons unless security measures, including metal detectors and security guards, are installed at the building entrances.
During the 2015 session, lawmakers amended the law allowing people to carry concealed guns without permit training. That law would apply to the Kansas public campuses in 2017.
“The law is pretty clear,” said regents chairman Shane Bangerter.
Next, state universities will have to draft individual policies, which Bangerter said he expects to be much more detailed. University presidents said they expect to have those policies drafted by October and begin training staff in the spring of 2017.
Each university must enact policies that:
• Allow for the safe possession and storage of lawfully possessed handguns.
• Determine which buildings will be fitted with adequate security measures. Only in those buildings will concealed handguns be prohibited.
• Authorize printing of information about gun policies on tickets to events where weapons may be prohibited.
• Inform students who live on campus of dormitory gun policies. Students who live on campus must store the guns out of sight in a safe location.
Bangerter originally wanted schools to present those policies this summer, but that may not give universities enough time to discuss it. Wichita State University President John Bardo said many universities have a high number of people who disagree with the state’s law.
“We’ll need time to bring everyone together and talk about it,” he said.
According the regents’ policy, handguns can be shown for purposes of self-defense or when being placed in secure storage. That could mean anyone who pulls a gun in defense of another person could be in violation of the policy, Julene Miller, general counsel for the Board of Regents, told the board.
“I think there would be some discretion from campuses about how they would enforce that,” she said. “We are restricting in some way that law itself does not.”
Kansas isn’t alone in legislation allowing concealed weapons on campuses.
In 2013, at least 19 states introduced legislation to allow concealed carry on campus in some way. In the 2014 legislative session, at least 14 states introduced similar legislation. Besides Kansas, eight states now have provisions allowing concealed weapons on campuses. The other states are Arkansas. Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
A majority of state university students, faculty and staff are uncomfortable with guns on campus, two surveys conducted last fall and released this month show.
A survey released Wednesday ahead of the regents’ vote showed that nearly 70 percent of college students polled are unhappy with allowing concealed guns on campus. Of the 20,561 students at the six state schools and Washburn University, 55 percent want the law repealed and 14 percent would like the campus exemption extended. The students received the poll via email Nov. 4 and had until Nov. 25 to respond.
Conducted by Fort Hays State University’s Docking Institute of Public Affairs in conjunction with the regents’ student advisory committee, the poll also found that 42 percent said they would be less likely to attend their university if concealed and carried was allowed, but only 16 percent said they would be more likely to attend their school. Additionally, 91 percent of students polled said they think a permit should be required for concealed guns.
A similar poll released early this month from the Docking Institute of Public Affairs of 10,800 faculty and staff indicated that 70 percent of respondents prefer amending the state law to prohibit concealed firearms on campus.
Meanwhile, one-fourth of respondents prefer to stick with current law and allow the university exemption to expire. Seven percent favored lengthening of the exemption and retention of existing law, and 90 percent favor renewal of a mandate that Kansans packing heat obtain a training permit.
Tom Beisecker, a University of Kansas professor of communications, explained the faculty and staff survey to the regents. He was critical of allowing guns on campuses and said it would have a “chilling effect on robust academic discussion,” especially anything controversial or emotional.
“It is really not a Second Amendment issue,” he said. “It is a public safety issue.”