On Feb. 1, student body president Jack Ayres sat in the gallery of the Kansas House of Representatives as the body debated House Bill 2042, which sought to recognize the concealed carry licenses of other states as valid in Kansas.
Ayres wasn’t in Topeka for that reason alone, however. There was drama afoot: there were several efforts planned to restrict concealed carry at Kansas’ public colleges and universities through the amendment process.
First, Rep. Barbara Ballard, a Democrat and longtime friend of the anti-campus carry movement, introduced an amendment that would once again ban firearms on campuses. This effort, not really standing a chance, was defeated.
However, Rep. Clay Aurand, a Republican, introduced a successful amendment that would require permits for concealed carry on campus.
Ultimately, the bill passed with the support of over 70 percent of the House.
Those who oppose campus carry, including Ayres and Ballard, didn’t get everything they wanted out of HB 2042. They’re likely dismayed that, if enacted, it would also lower the age to carry concealed firearms from 21 to 18.
Despite this, the drama surrounding the bill makes it clear that they’ll continue to scratch and claw away at campus carry until college students are once again left with only fists, call boxes and whistles to defend themselves on campus.
On Wednesday, Ayres was again in Topeka, this time to represent Kansas State University at State Higher Education Day. He was distributing a handout with a section titled “Localized Concealed Carry.”
Underneath the title, it states that in “19 of the 27 states that allow campus carry, the institution has the right to allow or forbid weapons on campus.” That makes about as much sense grammatically as it does politically.
Instead of “localized concealed carry,” the handout allegedly advocates localized decision-making about campus carry. The anti-campus carry cadre seeks to disguise their quest to re-ban guns on campus as a noble endeavor to return control over whether students can carry to each individual university.
Is this actually localized control? Not at all.
Right now, each and every eligible individual has the right to make a personal decision about carrying a concealed firearm on campus. Some students and faculty choose to do so. Others don’t. This is local control.
The type of “localized concealed carry” Ayres advocates wouldn’t localize decision-making about campus carry. It would centralize it.
Individuals would no longer have the right to decide for themselves. Such decision-making power would be seized from students and faculty and given to university administrators. We all know how they’ll decide.
The push for granting universities the right to make their own decisions about campus carry is just another dishonest attempt to limit the rights of students and faculty. We ought to continue this debate, but we need to be honest about the goals we have in mind.
Some people don’t think that carrying a concealed firearm on campus is a good idea. Some people do. That’s great! We can educate each other on the pros and cons of carrying concealed firearms. Ultimately, though, the final decision needs to be localized. It needs to be individualized.
It’s true that universities have unique needs and operate in unique circumstances. There is a host of issues on which the state of Kansas shouldn’t be blanketly making decisions on behalf of every university.
It’s also true, however, that individuals have unique needs and live in unique circumstances. There is a host of issues on which a university administration shouldn’t be blanketly making decisions on behalf of every student. Concealed carry is one of those issues.
Someday, I envision having more administrators, student leaders and representatives who recognize the unique circumstances of individual students.
Until that day comes, it’s imperative that each of us does our absolute best to protect individual rights against attacks from administrators, student leaders and representatives who instead seek to advance an agenda of centralized control.
Evan Steckler is a senior in architectural engineering and event coordinator for the College Republicans at Kansas State. The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to [email protected]