OPINION: Did legislators listen at the hearing?

Before the hearing on SB53, proponents of the bill stand outside the already crowded courtroom in the Topeka Statehouse on Jan. 26, 2017. (Regan Tokos | The Collegian)

On Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017, I spoke in front of a committee of legislators in regards to Senate Bill 53, a bill that would permanently exempt Kansas State and other specified locations from allowing concealed carry.

I wrote a testimony two days before the hearing on SB 53 filled with facts and logic about how allowing weapons on our campus would be harmful to students, but when I went up to speak, I scrapped my preparation and said what I felt.

I told the legislators that if I had known this law was going into effect I would have stayed in Nebraska. This law is dangerous, which has become clear after the accidental shooting that took place this past weekend. By allowing campus carry and increasing the number of guns on our campus, it will only lead to more gun related incidents.

Testifying in front of the legislators was nerve-wracking. I had the chance to testify about 45 minutes into the hearing. Listening to medical professionals, teachers and other students beforehand gave me both confidence and nerves. Right when my name was called I decided I would not be reading from the testimony I had prepared.

I was going to be genuine and honest, and the people in the room seemed to respond to my honesty. People laughed when I reminded them that students can be immature and that allowing guns on campus would only increase the chances for gun accidents. Students might pull out a gun for fun, just to show it off and accidentally hit themselves, a peer or state property, property we cannot afford to fix right now.

The hearing was mostly spent listening to testimonies from the public. The overwhelming majority of the testimonies were in favor of extending the campus carry exemptions. People came from all over Kansas to testify. There were faculty members from K-State, KU and Washburn. There were people from the KU Medical Center, people who work with the elderly, moms from Moms Demand Action and students. Those in favor of campus carry (all five of them) were mostly lobbyists.

I was at the capitol representing myself and the students I have been hearing from constantly since I have become a vocal opponent of campus carry.

The hearing became heated at times, especially when the minority, those in favor of campus carry, spoke. They were given more time and attention from the committee head, Sen. Jacob LaTurner.

Regan Tokos is a junior in regional and community planning from Omaha, Nebraska and the president of Kansas State University Against Campus Carry (KSACC).

  • Cheyenne Schwab

    I was also at this meeting. After each proponent for this bill was allowed to speak their piece, the opportunity for questions was opened. Not one proponent was able to give a logical, factual answer for one question they asked. One man, in his testimony, mentioned that allowing guns on campus would create a, “Mecca of terrorism.” There are currently more than 150 campuses in the United States that allow concealed carry (Wichita State being one). He was asked to name one campus that was now a Mecca of terrorism, and could not give one example. The “facts” most people present against campus care are wholly based on feelings such as the testimony an FHSU professor gave stating that guns on campus make people who haven’t ever seen or been around guns uncomfortable and scared. Each one of these statements addresses feelings. Not facts. Since 1991, when violent crime hit an all-time high, 25 states have adopted RTC laws, the number of people with carry permits has risen to over 12 million, and the nation’s violent crime rate has decreased 51 percent, to a 43-year low,” according to the NRA. In most states with ‘shall-issue’ concealed carry laws, the rate of concealed handgun licensure is between 1% and 3%. Therefore, statistically speaking, a packed 300-seat movie theater contains between three and nine individuals licensed to carry concealed handguns, and a shopping mall crowded with 1,000 shoppers contains between 10 and 30 individuals licensed to carry concealed handguns. I mean these same people who are opposing campus carry aren’t afraid to go to the grocery store, the movie theater, or a restaurant, so what changes when guns are allowed to be legally carried on campus? The men and women who would be conceal carrying on campus are the men and women who are already conceal carrying off of campus every day and have been doing so without issue. It makes no difference where they are. Also, under the amendment for HB 2052, colleges are still allowed to prohibit guns as long as they implement adequate measures to prevent any guns from coming on to campus. This measure is absolutely necessary. If HB 2074 passes, there will be nothing stopping an active shooter from coming on to campus, just as there was nothing stopping the Virginia Tech shooter from murdering other students and there was nothing stopping the 19 year old John Doe who shot himself in the cheek in Goodnow Hall at Kansas State University on January 22, 2017. The only difference between the two instances was the fact that the Virgin Tech shooter had malicious intentions, and the student at Kansas State was careless and ignorant. While allowing concealed carry on campus may not prevent an active shooter from walking onto a Kansas campus, that shooter will think twice about return fire. As it stands, the only thing HB 2074 does is prevent responsible gun owners from conceal carrying on campus to protect themselves.