Kansas lawmakers heard testimony last week on a proposal to limit gun regulations on college campuses.
Rep. Blake Carpenter, R-Derby, sponsor of House Bill 2220, described the proposal as a reaction to the weapons policies popping up at universities across the state as administrators prepare for the campus carry law to take effect in less than four months.
“The bill originated when I found out that the universities and regents, they’re basically passing these policies that affect how an individual will carry their handgun,” Carpenter said in an interview with The Kansas City Star. “For me, I carry with a round in the chamber and I always do.”
Kansas enacted a law in 2013 allowing guns in public buildings, but colleges were among the few places granted a four-year exemption, set to expire on July 1.
Since then, universities have adopted policies for carrying weapons on campus, including provisions requiring owners to keep the gun in their possession at all times, chamber empty and safety on.
The National Rifle Association says such rules are designed to discourage campus carry entirely.
“I believe that a lot of these issues on the university-level policies are just trying to make it more confusing and make it more restrictive so that students and faculty will just give up and choose not to carry for risk of violating one of these policies,” NRA lobbyist Travis Couture-Lovelady told the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs during its Thursday hearing, per The Associated Press.
Zoe Newton, chairwoman of the Kansas Board of Regents — the body tasked with approving college weapons policies across the state — testified against the bill, insisting “the board’s policies are designed to set reasonable standards that do not infringe on the right to carry concealed, but instead attempt to ensure that the transition to concealed carry on campus will be as seamless as possible.”
The campus carry law, and the Legislature’s constitutional carry law passed two years ago, have made the state’s gun control advocates wary, according to the newspaper.
“A bill like that is very reflective of, again, the anti-university, anti-intellectualism that you see from a certain subset of legislators,” said Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park. “But I would also say that that subset of legislators is not representative of the people of the state and not representative of the Legislature.
Clayton sponsored House Bill 2074 in January in hopes of permanently extending the exemption for colleges. A similar measure in the Senate failed in committee last month.
Five states permit concealed carry on college campuses: Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Tennessee and Texas. Universities in Kansas, Oregon, Mississippi, Arkansas and Wisconsin also allow concealed weapons, but restrict where and who can exercise the right.