Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gov. Brownback signs into law concealed carry measure; campuses exempt for four years

The Lawrence Journal-World

Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law a bill that loosens restrictions on carrying concealed weapons into public buildings, but don't expect any guns to be allowed on campus at Kansas University any time soon.

The law permits universities, community colleges and technical colleges to prohibit concealed guns in their buildings for another four years.

"Our students would rather not have them," said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. "There is not a group on campus as a whole that would prefer to have concealed carry on campus."

Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Tim Emert said the regents would start studying the issue of concealed carry and get input from experts and legislators. "That doesn't mean there will be any changes," he said. The current policy is no concealed carry at institutions of higher education.

Regent Vice Chair Fred Logan Jr. said the regents will probably discuss the issue further this fall.

The law, which takes effect July 1, also allows state agencies and local governments to continue banning concealed weapons through 2017, but it requires them to declare publicly that they've developed plans for adequate security for their buildings.

The law also won't make people with valid state permits subject to criminal prosecution if they carry concealed weapons into a building, though officials can direct them to remove the gun or leave.

State university officials have expressed strong opposition to allowing concealed weapons on campuses. If the regents wanted to maintain the no-guns policy for state universities indefinitely, they'd have to lobby lawmakers to rewrite the law again.

The concealed carry legislation cleared the Republican-dominated Legislature earlier this month with four-fifths majorities in both chambers. Brownback signed it the same day he signed another measure declaring that the federal government has no authority to regulate guns, ammunition and accessories that are manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas.

"The right to bear arms has long been among those constitutional rights held most sacred by the citizens of Kansas," Brownback said in a statement Wednesday.

Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, welcomed Emert's comments about the regents re-examining their concealed-carry policy. She said gun-rights advocates should be included in any discussions.

"We're not going to be satisfied until everybody is able to exercise their rights," she said.

But regent Dan Lykins, a Topeka attorney, said he saw no need to change the policy because campuses are now safe. Kansas State University officials don't see "any place" for guns on campus "with the exception of the police force," President Kirk Schulz said.

Legislators approved the gun-rights bills in the wake of discussions among federal officials about new gun-control measures following December's mass, fatal shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. But Sen. Forrest Knox, an Altoona Republican who's a leading advocate for both gun-rights measures, said many of their provisions have been reviewed by state lawmakers for several years.

Lawmakers enacted a law allowing the carrying of concealed weapons in 2005 over then-Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' veto, and the state began issuing permits in 2006. Since then, some legislators like Knox have been frustrated because they believe the regents and local officials have been too quick to prohibit guns in their buildings, using the power granted to them to bar weapons simply by posting notices at entrances.

"Kansas citizens who are licensed to carry are law-abiding citizens. There is no danger from them," Knox said. "The problem is not guns."

Knox and Stoneking said they expect many schools, particularly in rural areas, to allow employees to carry concealed. They said if there is an attack on a school, students would be protected before law enforcement officers arrived.

"Those no-gun signs are a complete irrelevance to any criminal or mentally ill person," Stoneking said.

But former first-grade teacher Jennifer Johnson said she believed there were other ways to improve schools' security.

"And it would be very easy for faculty to have an accident with a gun or for somebody with mental instability to snap," said Johnson, 28, of Overland Park.