Kansas Universities' Policies For Weapons On Campus Approved

Dec 14, 2016

The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday approved policies for how the state's six public universities will implement a state law allowing people to carry concealed guns into campus buildings starting July 1.

The regents, with little discussion, approved the plans that spell out university policies on the safe storage and handling of handguns. Stun guns to be used for self-defense also will be allowed, but Tasers which fire projectiles and are generally more powerful than generic stun guns won't be.

The law says universities can ban guns from buildings that have security measures including metal detectors or security guards, but those measures are costly, so concealed guns would be allowed in nearly all campus buildings, though board member Zoe Newton suggested schools may keep weapons out of sporting events.

“There may be athletic events coming up in early September. And since we’re having these brought back, if there are things of that nature that need to come back, you might want to do that earlier rather than later,” she said.

Right now at Wichita State University, no buildings have been designated as gun-free, but regents say proposals can be revised. The board would have to approve any plan to ban weapons from certain buildings.

Here are some questions and answers about the Kansas law:

WHAT IS CHANGING?

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed a law in 2013 requiring concealed carry of handguns to be allowed in all publicly owned buildings unless the owners provide adequate security to prevent anyone from bringing weapons in. Cities, counties and public colleges and universities were allowed to exempt themselves until July 1, 2017.

WHO WILL BE ALLOWED TO CARRY CONCEALED WEAPONS ON CAMPUS?

Anyone over the age of 21, including students, faculty, staff and visitors. Kansas does not require people to have a license or training to carry a concealed weapon. The universities' policies include restrictions for those who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, mentally ill or those with felony convictions.

The policies also state that anyone carrying a concealed weapon on campus must be in control of the handgun and keep it secure on his or her person when it's not in use. Concealed handguns must be in holsters and handguns with an external safety must have the safety on at all times. If the weapon is in a backpack, gun or purse, those items must be on or in the hands of the person at all times.

Handguns cannot be stored in any university classroom, office or facility, in any residential unit that does not belong to the gun's owner, or in an unlocked or unattended vehicle. People who live on campus must keep their guns in university-approved storage devices.

ARE THERE ANY RESTRICTIONS ON WHERE GUNS WILL BE ALLOWED?

The policies allow for guns to be restricted in areas that have no public access or require entry through key cards or special codes. So, for example, guns will continue to be prohibited at a nuclear reactor at Kansas State University because public access has always been restricted there.

The policies don't currently include any buildings that have security measures that would allow them to continue to ban concealed guns. However, universities could implement permanent or temporary security measures later and return to the Board of Regents for permission to ban concealed guns from those buildings.

Officials have raised concerns about allowing guns in areas such with combustible materials, such as chemical or engineering laboratories that store pressurized gas cylinders and rocket fuel. However, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has said universities can't ban handguns from those places.

HAS THERE BEEN ANY OPPOSITION?

Faculty and student organizations at the universities have generally been strongly opposed to guns on campus, and the Lawrence-based Kansas Interfaith Action has said it plans to lobby the Legislature to change the law in the next legislative session.

Opponents say allowing concealed guns won't make campuses safer. Some people are concerned that students and professors wouldn't be comfortable discussing controversial subjects if they think there might be a gun in the room.

Supporters such as the National Rifle Association argue that lawful gun owners should be allowed to carry on campuses for self-protection. They argue that having more law-abiding citizens with guns could potentially deter mass shootings or allow bystanders to intervene to limit the deadly consequences.

At least nine states -- Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin -- have laws on the books allowing concealed handguns on campus.

KMUW's Abigail Beckman and KCUR's Sam Zeff contributed to this story.