For opponents of allowing guns on campus, Wednesday’s action by the governance committee of the Kansas Board of Regents might be a half measure — and an expensive one at that — but it’s an important half-measure.
The governance committee approved the requests of Kansas State University, the University of Kansas and Wichita State University to prevent individuals from bringing guns into major athletic events.
For that to happen, the universities will have to add staff and install security measures such as metal detectors at stadiums and basketball arenas for home games.
At K-State, that will involve the purchase of about 70 metal detectors for the games in the 2017-18 school year. Casey Scott, senior associate athletics director for operations and event management, estimated total additional costs at $1 million, about $450,000 of which would be spent on the metal detectors.
The moves are an outcome of concealed carry legislation that, courtesy of the Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act, allows people 21 or older to carry firearms in most public places. A subsequent law even allows adults who have not had training in gun safety to carry firearms in most public places. Effective July 1 because of an exemption, that will include the campuses of the state’s public universities.
Sentiment among students, faculty and administrators at K-State and the other institutions is overwhelmingly against allowing guns on campus, in part because of the chilling effect the presence of an armed individual could have on classroom discussions. Unfortunately, opponents have been unable to change enough minds in the Kansas Legislature, where a majority of lawmakers is convinced that the presence of armed individuals will enhance the safety of university populations. In fact, efforts to repeal the law inspired a backlash that includes a bill to strengthen the law by stripping universities of the authority to issue any restrictions on where people can carry guns.
The law does permit universities to ban guns from certain sensitive areas, but to keep people from bringing handguns into classroom buildings and most other structures, armed guards or other security measures would have to be posted at every entrance. The reality is that the universities, already scrambling to make ends meet amid state funding cuts, cannot afford the tens of millions of dollars the extra security measures would cost.
They are doing well to invest in such measures at athletic events, where emotions, sometimes fueled by alcohol, can run particularly high.