K-State gun-free days are numbered. Currently, any possession of a firearm, including concealed carry, is prohibited across the K-State campus.
However, July 1, 2017 marks the end of the exemption period for the university to prohibit the concealed carry of handguns on campus, according to K-State’s weapons policy webpage.
On Jan. 20, the Kansas Board Regents approved a revised policy that states, “Beginning July 1, 2017, any individual who is 21 years of age or older and who is lawfully eligible to carry a concealed handgun in Kansas shall not be precluded from doing so on state university campuses except in buildings and areas of buildings for which adequate security measures are provided, and except as otherwise prohibited by law.”
This policy will still prohibit the open carry of firearms anywhere on campus, according to the Regents’ “Frequently Asked Questions about Concealed Carry on Campus.”
Students and community members were given a chance to share their thoughts on the new weapons policy at a public forum held at Town Hall in the Leadership Studies Building Wednesday evening. The event was hosted by Timothy Shaffer, assistant professor of communication studies, with the help of a few communication studies graduate students.
Participants were divided into smaller groups in which roundtable discussions were held to address topics including overall safety, campus experience and how the greater community will be affected as a result of the concealed carry policy.
Students had mixed responses as to whether or not this move made by the Kansas Legislature is a step in the right direction.
Nathan Hansen, sophomore in biological systems engineering, said he was not sure whether this new policy would help or hinder safety on campus.
“I guess my question would be whether or not you’re going to be increasing safety as much as you’re increasing the possibility of having more accidents,” Hansen said. “I think we really have to balance the pros and cons.”
Ayana Hall, freshman in journalism and mass communications, said there are safer alternatives than allowing students to carry guns.
“Since I’ve been here, just walking around I’ve seen maybe two police officers physically on campus,” Hall said. “I think if they’re really concerned about safety, they could increase the number of campus police that are active.”
Hall said she would be far more willing to trust an officer to carry a gun than a student.
Cassandra Fulk, senior in communication studies, had a different opinion on the issue of safety. She said she did not foresee a drastic change occurring after July 2017.
“I really don’t think that people are going out and getting guns and carrying them around campus as soon as this law is passed,” Fulk said. “Guns are expensive. Some days I know friends that can’t even afford Jimmy John’s. It’s a lot to go into. It’s a big commitment.”
In addition to voicing their general safety concerns, students also spoke about how the concealed carry law would have an impact on the activities that occur on campus.
Tanner Fox, senior in horticulture, said he was worried about how the new policy would affect greek life on campus.
“I know that fraternities and sororities have been doing a lot of philanthropies on campus,” Fox said. “Maybe this would prevent these events from happening on campus because of concealed carry.”
Ben Trickey, freshman in secondary education, said another aspect that needs to be considered is potential future students. He said the gun policy could be a big deciding factor for students as to whether or not they want to attend a college that allows concealed carry.
“I think it’s K-State’s responsibility to let visiting students know what’s going on,” Trickey said. “I think once the law is out there, it impacts the community in a way that it would be a big part of their experience.”
Denis Uzdil, junior in industrial engineering originally from Belgium, said that while he does not have a problem with guns, he could see how other international students could feel uneasy about the law.
“If you guys have the right to carry a gun and then you tell us that we can’t, why can’t we defend ourselves?” Uzdil said. “It’s kind of unfair. If you guys are afraid of us not knowing how to deal with guns, imagine how we feel.”
After returning to the large group as the roundtable discussions were concluded, Shaffer addressed the participants and said to remember that this issue is nowhere near resolution yet. He said the campus community became closer by holding these types of civil conversations and that he hopes this will be the first of many.
“We have to remember that we’re still the K-State family,” Shaffer said. “Even though a family doesn’t always agree on everything, they still stick together.”
The Weapons Advisory Work Group will host another concealed carry open forum 1:30-3:30 p.m. Friday in the K-State Student Union’s Forum Hall.