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).