Univ. of Kansas Hospital wages own battle to keep gun exemption in place

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TOPEKA, Kan. -- If nothing changes, starting July 1 the University of Kansas Hospital must either allow guns, or set up expensive screening procedures to keep them out. An gun exemption is set to expire that also affects state universities and colleges.

The debate whether guns should be allowed in state-owned universities and hospitals continued in Topeka on Thursday, and administrators from the University of Kansas Health System went in front of a group of legislators telling them why they think it is just simply not a good idea.

"He came to me for advice when the wife of a hospitalized patient said to him, ‘If I had my gun with me I would shoot you,’" Dr. Lee Norman said before state representatives.

Dr. Norman, the chief medical officer at KU Hospital, illustrated his point to Kansas state representatives with a real-life example of a doctor at KU who was threatened to be shot by the wife of one of his patients.

"And then for me to meet with the person and have her say, ‘yeah, I would have done it and if that worries him, that's his problem.’ It shows that a person is not thinking clearly in that moment," Dr. Norman said.

President and system CEO Bob Page is leading the charge to permanently ban guns from the hospital. If he does not win this fight, Page says KU Hospital will be at a great competitive disadvantage.

"What is your biggest fear?" he was asked.

"Oh, that is a great question. I think the biggest fear right now is that people will believe that somehow bringing guns into our hospital will provide a safer environment. I do not agree with that argument, I don't see the logic in that argument,” Page said.

According to the conceal carry law, everyone who chooses to carry a gun into any public building may do so, unless there are security measures in place - such as armed guards and metal detectors at every entrance - to ensure that no one entering the building has a gun.

"Our argument is that if you are not going to be able to do that, you simply need to take the sticker off of the wall and let law abiding citizens be able to do so,” said Travis Lovelady with the NRA.

The committee did not vote on this measure; that is something that will be taken up in the next few weeks. This legislation is specific to the hospital and is separate from companion house and senate bills that seek to restore the concealed handgun exemption for public universities in Kansas- and would cover KU Hospital. But the state senate version is stuck in committee, and a house version hasn't been voted on by a committee.

Regardless, the KU Health System fears those measures may not have enough votes, so it's also offering its version.