By Bonita Garber – Horizon Opinion Editor
On March 21, The Kansas House of Representatives passed an amendment to the state’s concealed carry bill. The bill would primarily affect public schools, but does have specific ramifications for private colleges and universities as well. The Kansas Legislature website indicates that the bill has been referred to the Committee on Federal and State affairs. A recommendation is pending.
The Personal and Family Protection Act, also known as Bill 2353, would allow college students who hold concealed to carry licenses to bring a gun onto public college campus. Not surprisingly, the proposed bill has created many critics.
According to Lamar Roth, Hesston College’s Dean of Students, guns have no place in the college setting.
“In general, I absolutely don’t support the bill.” Roth said. “Other colleges have had issues with violence, obviously Virginia Tech being the most notable. Here, we believe we are a safe campus. We have good law enforcement and we screen our students well.”
In a Fox News article, comments from Wichita State University student president Matthew Onset were in line with Roth’s.
“You give a student a poor grade, because they deserved that poor grade, they don’t think they deserve that poor grade, well they now have a weapon,” said Onstott.
But, some Hesston College students believe that weapons should be allowed.
“If a law like this passes, I will have .9mm lying on my desk, along with my Nerf gun and water guns,” said Joshua Lightsey, a Hesston College Freshman.
According to the bill, licensed owners may carry a concealed gun into any state or municipal buildings except when “the building had adequate security measures, such as electronic screening equipment and guards, to ensure that no weapons could be brought in.”
The Wichita Eagle included licensing conditions: Applicants must be over 21, submit to background check, have no previous felonies, take eight hours of weapons training and be approved by the county sheriff’s office.
But is eight hours of training enough? According to Wichita State Police Chief, Paul Dotson, it might not be.
“That training might not be enough to prepare permit holders to deal with a dangerous situation in a confined place such as a classroom,” Dotson was quoted in the article. “[In a situation] we wouldn’t know the good guys from the bad.”
And, if guns are allowed in public universities, what happens when one of those students visit a private college?
“We’ve been having a lot of serious talks about the bill,” said Roth. “For example, if a public student comes to visit and has a concealed gun, how do we make students aware that that is not acceptable? Do we post signs? What does safety look like?”
Kansas isn’t the first state to propose a bill to legalize guns on campuses. Utah already allows students to carry concealed weapons on college campuses. As quoted in the Wichita Eagle, after an interview with Utah State University campus police Capt. Steve Miller said “The measure has been negatively received since its implementation in 2007.”
But, if the bill passed in Utah, does it have a good chance in passing in Kansas?
According to the founder of the bill, Rep. Forrest Knox, similar bills regarding guns on college and university campuses have passed in the House, but died in the Senate.
Still, Hesston College is actively watching the bill.
“Students have the right to safety,” said Roth, “and here we believe the best way to implement that is by not allowing concealed guns.”