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Kansas Lawmakers Vote to Allow Health Care Facilities to Bar Guns

The Kansas Senate Chamber. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

The Kansas Senate and House have voted to allow public health care facilities to continue banning concealed weapons. The 24-16 Senate vote and 91-33 House vote send the bill to Governor Sam Brownback for consideration.

State law requires most public places to allow concealed firearms by this summer or install security at entrances to keep weapons out. Health care facilities have an exemption that ends later this year.

Republican Senator Carolyn McGinn said it doesn’t make sense to allow guns in places like state mental hospitals.

“These are individuals who are severely ill. They could take a gun away from an employee and then we have a problem,” said McGinn.

The bill would also exempt public hospitals and the University of Kansas Health System.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning said allowing guns at the KU Health System would make it harder for them to attract staff. He said it also would be difficult to install security at the facility so the hospital could continue barring guns.

“Just think of the TSA when you fly. Ten thousand humans walk through the KU door every day,” said Denning. “It makes no sense from just a practical matter.”

Critics of the bill said if there isn’t security in place to bar all guns, then law-abiding citizens should be able to carry a weapon for self-defense.

“You’re just taking away the right for someone to protect themselves legally in these facilities,” said Republican Senator Rob Olson.

Olson said a gun ban won’t stop people who are intent on breaking the rule.

“The only people we’re empowering here are the people who are going to do bad things,” said Olson.

Reporters asked Governor Sam Brownback before the debate if he would veto or sign the bill.

“I’m not going to articulate anything. I’m going to watch the debate. It’s an important one,” said Brownback.

Senate President Susan Wagle offered an amendment backed by the National Rifle Association that would have narrowed the bill to only allow barring guns in some areas of mental facilities and the KU hospital. She said narrowing the bill would mean a likely signature from the governor.

“This is the best solution that we can come to that protects the 2nd Amendment rights that we have already enacted in the state of Kansas and yet gives flexibility,” said Wagle.

The chamber rejected Wagle’s amendment. Threats of a veto didn’t sway some lawmakers who want a wider exemption, including Republican Senator Barbara Bollier.

“I refuse to be held hostage to the governor’s pen, and thus will be voting no,” said Bollier.

Kwanequa Jones is a Washburn University graduate who was at the Statehouse for a rally. She wanted lawmakers to expand the firearm discussion to include an exemption for universities, so those buildings could continue barring guns after this summer.

“I am happy they are working on not allowing guns in medical facilities,” said Jones. “I think guns not being allowed in all facilities would be great.”

Even lawmakers who want to exempt universities from the concealed carry law decided not to pursue it as part of the bill. They were concerned adding an exemption for universities would garner a veto from the governor and mean losing the health care facility exemption, as well.

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