The Kansas House of Representatives is expected to take up a bill this week that would allow Kansans who are permitted to carry concealed weapons to carry them on this state’s college and university campuses.
That’s a bad idea. In fact, it’s a dreadful idea. Ed McKechnie, chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, put it well in a letter to the editor last week when he said “… college and university campuses constitute neither the time nor the place for concealed weapons or airport-style security measures.”
He noted that among other organizations, the campus chiefs of police and student government associations oppose the measure.
Rep. Forrest Knox, an Altoona Republican, introduced the bill. He contends that guns already exist on campus illegally. He says his proposal would allow law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and doesn’t understand why opponents would object to that.
For starters, guns are not necessary. Despite the publicity accompanying a shooting on a campus, such incidents are extremely rare. Moreover, there’s no indication that allowing concealed carry on campus would prevent them. Every bit as likely, in the chaos of an act of violence, innocent people — including individuals licensed for concealed carry — could be shot.
Richard Johnson, police chief at the University of Kansas Medical Center, testified against the bill in a committee hearing. He told lawmakers he worries about what could happen in an incident in which multiple people brandished weapons. “We are particularly concerned with being able to distinguish the ‘good guys’ from the ‘bad guys,’” he said. “A person with a concealed-carry license doesn’t have a badge or uniform. How does a responding officer know which person with the gun is a threat?”
Concealed carry also comes at a steep monetary cost. The Board of Regents estimates the cost of required security upgrades at $5 million to $9 million. Security personnel with metal detectors or security wands would be stationed at every entrance of every building on campuses. This includes classroom buildings, residence halls and athletic and cultural centers. To reduce expenses, some entrances now operating would probably be closed; that would create congestion at other entrances and impede the daily coming and going of thousands of students.
Universities already are cash strapped. More important, they already are safe, vibrant places where concealed handguns are neither needed nor welcome.