Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Kansas Senate advances expansion of concealed carry of guns

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

The Kansas Senate on Tuesday advanced an expansion of concealed carry of guns that could result in allowing firearms in schools and campuses.

"When a gun is in a school and harm is meant, there is only one thing that is going to stop that, and that is another gun," said state Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona.

Referring to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. and the unarmed teachers who were killed while trying to protect students, Knox said, "We've got to get our heads out of the sand. There are guns and there are people with evil intent and law enforcement is not always the first responder. The first responders at Sandy Hook are all dead."

Knox's bill says that a public building cannot prohibit concealed carry if it doesn't have security equipment or personnel to ensure that no one is carrying.

The bill would allow a four-year exemption for any public building by making a security plan and submitting that the attorney general and law enforcement.

Knox's bill would also allow school districts and state colleges to designate employees to carry concealed weapons at work.

The House has passed a similar bill.

Knox said university campuses are particularly vulnerable, and he said based on studies there are 35 students carrying a gun illegally for every 1,000 students. That means there are approximately 700 illegal guns on the Kansas University campus now, he said.

He said if licensed concealed carry holders would be allowed to carry on campus, rapes and other crimes would decrease.

But state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said allowing guns on campuses would make "those places less safe."

Francisco says she feels safe on the KU campus. "I've spent a fair amount of time on campus and never felt the need or interest to carry a gun. I rely on the law enforcement that does exist," she said.

State Sen. Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City, offered an amendment that would have removed schools and postsecondary institutions from the bill. But that was defeated.