A Kansas House committee narrowly rejected a bill Wednesday that would have allowed the University of Kansas Health System to continue banning concealed firearms. It failed to advance on an 11-11 vote.
The chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, Republican Rep. John Barker of Abilene, chose not to vote to break the tie.
A state law set to take effect in July will allow concealed weapons on university campuses and in public hospitals and government buildings unless security is in place to keep out guns. The bill would have exempted the KU Health System.
Opponents of the bill, like Republican Rep. Michael Houser of Columbus, said people have a right to carry guns to defend themselves.
“When we pass legislation like this or put placards on doors, you’re basically taking away that person’s right to self-defense,” Houser said.
Cost Of Change
Democratic Rep. Louis Ruiz of Kansas City opposed the bill, saying KU Hospital officials worry they’ll be at a competitive disadvantage among hospitals in the Kansas City area if they’re forced to allow guns.
“Scientists and doctors and students and patients are not wanting to come to our state because of the exemption being lifted after July,” Ruiz said.
Officials at the KU Health System say it would be too expensive for them to install security at all the facility entrances.
The committee rejected an amendment that would have allowed public hospitals, mental facilities and nursing homes to continue banning guns. It also rejected amendments that would have expanded concealed carry rights into more facilities.
Supporters of barring guns in public places like hospitals and college campuses hope the issue still can make progress this session before the law takes effect. They may attempt to bring it up during debate on a different bill on the House floor.
Bill Would Require Gun Locks
At another Wednesday hearing, a Senate committee considered a bill that supporters say would help prevent accidental shootings.
Sen. Pat Pettey, a Kansas City Democrat, introduced Senate Bill 156, which would make it a misdemeanor to leave a loaded gun that was unlocked in a place where a child could reach it.
Four Kansas children died as the result of unintentional shootings from 2014 to 2016, and at least 14 others were injured during that time, Pettey said. She said the bill wouldn’t prohibit parents from having a firearm in their homes but would require them to secure the weapon or keep it unloaded.
“Having the right to have a lethal weapon in your home is one thing, but having the responsibility (to protect children) is another thing,” she told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Republican from Shawnee, said she appreciated Pettey’s “good intentions” but disagreed with her bill. She told a story about a group of women who defended themselves with a gun when a pizza delivery man attempted rape.
“If there had been any locking mechanism on the gun, they wouldn’t have been able to get to it on time,” she said.
The bill doesn’t specify a locking mechanism, but trigger locks typically use a key or a combination. It also would consider guns that scan fingerprints and only fire for the owner to be secure.
Meg Wingerter, a reporter for KCUR’s Kansas News Service, contributed to this article.
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service.