Kansas Senate committee approves bill to ban guns from some state hospitals

The Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee advanced a bill Tuesday that would ban concealed guns from certain public health care facilities in the state.

The Topeka Captial-Journal reported the committee removed from House Bill 2278 an amendment that would have allowed lawful gun owners with concealed carry permits to carry firearms into Larned State Hospital, Osawatomie State Hospital, Parsons State Hospital and Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka.

After removing the amendment, the bill now would essentially prohibit firearms from the four listed hospitals, as well as University of Kansas Health System facilities, community mental health facilities and adult care homes.

If the measure is not passed and signed by Gov. Sam Brownback, those buildings will have to either install metal detectors and post security guards at entrances by July 1 or allow concealed carry.

Democrat Sen. Tom Hawk said the bill does not go far enough and has called to broaden the measure to ban firearms from buildings at public universities.

“It’s clear that it’s dangerous to have people who are in a mental hospital carrying a weapon,” Hawk said. “I still would argue strongly, if we were in a saner moment and we collectively, as I choose to do, refuse to be afraid of any lobby group or threat of a scored vote, we would do something that made sense.”

Members of gun control groups Moms Demand Action and Grandmothers Against Gun violence also wanted the bill to be broadened. Jennifer Ashby, a Lake Quivira physician and member of Grandparents Against Gun Violence, said guns and hospitals simply do not mix.

“Guns in the ER are incredibly dangerous, especially in the case of a shooting victim,” she said. “Often, the family and friends are also gun-toting individuals. Not always, but often. ER physicians are very scared of this being allowed.”

Republican Sen. Ed Berger, who added the amendment to allow concealed carry holders to carry into certain hospitals, defended his addition that was ultimately overturned.

“If you allow concealed weapons with a permit, you do a couple things,” Berger said. “Number one, you don’t have any more security issues than you did previously. The second thing it does, it provides those who are carrying, that they have the skills, ability and respect for the weapon they’re carrying.”

Travis Couture-Lovelady, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, has said the organization would agree to let guns be banned from certain spaces in Kansas University Health Facilities and state psychiatric hospitals but that the NRA opposes the current version of the bill because it would ban firearms from too many buildings, Kansas Public Radio reported.

“If you’re going to restrict law-abiding citizens’ ability to defend themselves in that building, you should provide the security to show that nobody in that building is carrying,” Couture-Lovelady said.

Couture-Lovelady also added that those intent on carrying firearms will not be deterred by rules and signage.

“We believe that just putting a sticker on the door and hoping folks don’t carry in there isn’t enough. You need some kind of security,” he said.

The measure is headed to the full Kansas Senate for consideration.