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Proponents, opponents trade barbs over allowing KS universities, hospitals to remain gun free zones

TOPEKA, Kan. -- As of July 1, all state-owned universities and hospitals in Kansas will be required to allow people to carry a concealed weapon into buildings, including doctor’s offices, patient rooms, classrooms, dorms and any other public building associated with the institution.

According to the law, the institutions must allow everyone to carry a gun or install security measures to ensure no one in the building has a gun. By banning guns, the burden of safety is assumed by the institution. For the last four years, there has been an exemption granted to these types of institutions to prepare for the conceal carry law, and now administrators are asking for a permanent exemption.

Senate Bill 53 would permanently extend the exemption for state-owned universities and hospitals, allowing those buildings to remain gun free zones. In a hearing Thursday, both proponents and opponents of the bill exchanged barbs during a heated debate in a jam-packed hearing room at the Statehouse.

"I just wonder how many of you have hung out with college students recently, because we aren't exactly mature," asked Kansas State University sophomore Regan Tokos of the senators in the Statehouse committee room.

She is supporting SB53, saying that stressful environments and guns are a dangerous combination.

Derek Cox is also a KSU student and a Marine. In his opinion, carrying a gun on campus is a constitutional right and the way he protects himself and others.

"I don't understand how we can call me a responsible armed citizen on one side, and as soon as I cross the street I suddenly become a violent, uncontrollable child. That logic doesn't follow,” said Cox.

The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, which held the hearing Thursday, will vote on the bill the week of January 30.