A Kansas law prohibiting state universities from banning the legal concealed carry of handguns takes effect Saturday, July 1, exactly 51 days before the fall semester begins at Kansas State.
“We’re going to continue to be as safe as we can, knowing that there’s never any guarantees, and mostly the change is: if you want to carry, now you can,” Cindy Bontrager, vice president for administration and finance, said.
With the enactment of campus carry, Kansas will enter a bloc of 10 other states which mandate, either by law or by court ruling that public universities must allow the concealed carry of handguns on campus. However, unlike Utah, Oregon, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Colorado, Idaho, Texas, Georgia and (Sept. 1) Arkansas, Kansas has removed the requirement that a citizen must have a permit and training to carry concealed firearms.
What should students expect?
K-State President Richard Myers said on “K-State NOW” in March that Kansas’ university presidents and chancellors “have all been pretty strong” in saying that they are against the concealed carry law and that the expiring university exemption should continue.
“We’ve got a pretty good set of rules that people have to comply with, and if they don’t, then there are repercussions for not following the rules that will be outlined,” Myers said. These repercussions could include expulsion from the university.
When asked in the May interview about students carrying concealed handguns, Myers offered the interviewer reassurance.
“You have to assume they already are,” he said.
The exact number of people who will be eligible and will choose to carry concealed handguns remains elusive.
Sixty-two percent of K-State students in a December 2015 Docking Institute survey and 72 percent of K-State faculty and staff in a similar poll said they would prefer the continuation of the campus firearm ban or an extension to the expiring exemption.
During the spring 2017 semester, 11,310 non-international undergraduate and graduate students at least 21 years old were enrolled in classes at K-State’s Manhattan campus, according to records provided by K-State’s Office of Planning and Analysis.
About 10 percent of the 3,446 students who lived in K-State’s residence halls during the spring 2017 semester were 21 or older, Nick Lander, interim associate director of the Department of Housing and Dining Services, said in an April phone interview.
The university has been barred from requiring any students carrying concealed handguns to register with the university. However, Housing and Dining Services may be able to help students who are uncomfortable sharing a room with someone with a concealed handgun.
K-State has not purchased the “adequate security measures” outlined in the law to legally continue to restrict firearms on campus. As a result, only a couple of locations will remain off-limits to concealed carry.
The nuclear reactor facility in Ward Hall, according to a September weapons policy slideshow, is federally regulated and prohibits firearms. K-State’s Center for Child Development has also been granted approval by the Board of Regents to remain free of firearms, KSNT News reports. Before the Center for Child Development hands out photo ID cards and access codes, visitors, emergency contacts and parents will be required to complete background checks and forms acknowledging the continued firearm restriction.
Members of K-State Police and the university administration have said that it would be too expensive to lawfully prohibit concealed carry in every single building. K-State Police Chief Ronnie Grice estimated in March that the cost of a campus-wide restriction would be about $339,858 in upfront, one-time expenses and $225,408 annually in additional salaries and benefits.
“When this whole statute came about, it came about because the state knew … that none of the [Kansas Board of Regents] schools could afford to spend millions and millions of dollars to put this stuff in place,” Grice said at the time.
Views from the Manhattan delegation
Rep. Sydney Carlin, D-Manhattan, gave a preview of what is sure to be debated in the next legislative session in a letter to her constituents on June 5.
“This is not the end of the debate for College Campuses though we could not get it past this legislature at this time,” she wrote. “We continue these efforts.”
Sen. Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan, said in a phone interview that he is going to work to change the concealed carry law every year he is in the legislature.
“I don’t believe guns belong on a university campus or in any kind of educational school setting,” Hawk said. “I don’t think that’s a proper place for it. I think it puts a chill on the whole purpose of education, which is safety and free inquiry of different ideas.”
What are K-State’s rules for concealed carry?
Handguns must be in a secure holster completely hidden from view by clothing or stored in a bag, such as a backpack, and can only be seen if used in self-defense. Handguns additionally must remain in their owner’s control at all times; K-State provides a case study to reiterate that this rule applies in instances such as when students carrying a concealed handgun are asked to come to the front of the class.
It is also a crime under state law for felons and individuals under the influence of or addicted to alcohol or drugs to carry a concealed handgun. It remains to be seen how the introduction of campus carry will affect events like Fake Patty’s Day, in addition to the many other alcohol-focused parties that tend to pop up around colleges across the country.
Policy violations can be reported with any of the blue emergency phones across campus, by directly calling K-State Police at 785-532-6412 or by using the LiveSafe app. On arrival, officers may issue lawful orders to reported individuals to immediately leave campus with the weapon, as outlined in K-State’s weapons policy.
Gun owners will not be able to store handguns in classrooms, labs, offices or other on-campus facilities. The exceptions to this provision allow individuals to keep handguns in locked cars or in storage devices — provided by students and approved by the university administration — in on-campus housing.
How will classes and university athletics be impacted?
To lawfully restrict concealed carry during football and basketball games, K-State Athletics plans to purchase about 73 metal detectors for use at Bill Snyder Family Stadium and Bramlage Coliseum.
An outside security group is also expected to be hired by the athletics division to boost security personnel — 200 additional guards at football games and 50 at basketball games — which will total nearly $800,000 in first-time costs before falling in subsequent years, Ken Corbitt and Matt Galloway report in “K-State, KU athletics prepare for increased security under concealed carry law” for The Topeka Capital-Journal.
While a 2012 statement from the Board of Regents stated that Kansas universities will “likely be disqualified for tournaments” such as the Big 12 Conference due to heightened security risks and additional screenings, there is plenty of ambiguity regarding K-State’s continued eligibility for home games in athletic conferences.
When asked about the possibility of the Regents’ forecast in an email, Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda refrained from directly addressing the use of Kansas university venues.
“We will work with the KU and K-State administrations to insure [sic] that a safe environment is provided in athletic venues for all game participants, officials and fans,” Burda said.
Kenny Lannou, associate athletic director for communications, has encouraged fans to arrive early to games with added security.
Where can students get more information?
An online module for the university’s updated weapons policy launched in mid-June for students, faculty, staff and visitors. The training website outlines K-State’s weapons policy, relevant information from the Board of Regents and the state law, and provides resources, further details and FAQs.
Pat Bosco, vice president of student life and dean of students, said students and parents should be receiving a handout on the policy change at summer orientation.
“We’re relying on the media, which has spent a great deal of time discussing this issue, and our websites,” Bosco said.
Bosco said that K-State was hoping to include information about concealed carry in the Alcohol and Sexual Assault Prevention Program, an annual required course for all students, but the changes will not be available until next year.
“When students come back, there will be a notice [stating] ‘this policy has changed,’” Bontrager said. “It will be low key because we don’t think it’s going to impact that many individuals.”
In addition to the university weapons policy, there is an FAQ created by the Board of Regents on K-State’s Office of Administration and Finance webpage and a list of concealed carry instructors created by the state attorney general on the K-State Police webpage.
“We have to be careful that we don’t try to escalate this into something where people are even more concerned for safety, because I don’t think it is a safety issue,” Bontrager said.