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Debate Over Concealed Carry Stalls In Kansas House

Courtney Bierman
A protest on the University of Kansas campus Tuesday.

Members of the Kansas House shot down a motion to debate the issue of guns on college campuses. A move made by the chamber’s top Democrat would have forced the House to consider a bill regarding out-of-state concealed carry licenses. However, the real motivation was for critics of the state’s concealed carry law to propose changes during the debate.

House members rejected the idea of even bringing up the bill for debate on a 44-81 vote. Republican Majority Leader Don Hineman says they’ve been working on a compromise and most lawmakers want to continue those negotiations.

“We’re still hopeful we can get to a resolution in that way,” Hineman says. “That would be preferable to a wide open debate with endless possibilities and a very indeterminate outcome.”

Kansas law says most public buildings must allow concealed firearms, unless there are security measures in place to make sure no one brings guns into the facility. Universities, public hospitals and some other buildings have a temporary exemption that expires this summer.

Hineman wouldn’t say if a compromise could include universities, hospitals or both. He says it’s still under construction.

Most moderate-leaning Republicans joined with conservatives to oppose the debate. Hineman is himself from the more moderate wing of the party.

“It’s a reflection of their desire to see the process of negotiations play out and see if we can come to an agreement that pretty much everyone is on board with,” Hineman says.

The top Democrat in the House, Jim Ward, made the motion to bring up the firearms bill and allow debate on concealed carry laws.

“There are a lot of people in the state of Kansas that are concerned about gun safety,” Ward says. “We had a perfect opportunity to have a full and vigorous debate and it was rejected.”

The argument that there could be a compromise in the works wasn’t enough to satisfy Ward. He says the best way to forge a compromise would start with the House approving a position on the issue.

“So when you have a compromise you know what you’re giving up,” Ward says.

Critics of the current law say some places, like universities and public hospitals, shouldn't allow guns. They say it will either be unfeasible or very expensive to provide security at large institutions so guns can continue to be barred.

Supporters of the current law say people have constitutional rights to carry guns and defend themselves. They say those rights should extend to places like college campuses, unless there's security measures in place to make sure no one is carrying a firearm.

Efforts to amend the law have faltered in both House and Senate committees.