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Vote keeps guns off campuses — for now

By The Mercury

TOPEKA – The Kansas Board of Regents adopted a temporary resolution Thursday designed to keep weapons off campuses for four years.

The action is in response to a bill signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback that authorizes concealed carry licensees to carry a concealed handgun into any state or municipal building.

This law goes into effect in July, but higher education institutions were given the opportunity to opt out of the law temporarily.

Regent Robba Moran of Manhattan said it’s important to develop the policy and stance the Regents will take in four years.

“This is not something we need to be emotional about on either side of the issue,” she said. “We need to look at the facts and study the situations on campuses.”

Higher education officials have expressed concern about several aspects of the legislation such as suicide rates among young people, mental health issues and the cost of securing campus.

Moran said every safety and security officer from the campuses “without exception” told the Regents that concealed carry will not make campuses safer. “In fact, it will make them more dangerous,” she said.

She added that some professors have expressed concerns about students with a grudge carrying a weapon.

But while some have expressed hope that higher education institutions can avoid being put under the law in four years by expanding security, Moran said that doesn’t seem like a possibility.

“To put security at every entrance in every building on every campus is not realistic unless the legislature is willing to provide a significant amount of money to help universities with that,” she said.

K-State President Kirk Schulz said it will be important to get input from states such as Utah and Colorado, which adopted concealed carry laws at their universities in the fall semesters of 2006 and 2010, respectively

“We’re not a big advocate of concealed carry on campus,” he said. “I think it’s a bad policy, but that’s what the legislature passed, and we’ll do everything we can to uphold the law they put in place.”

The Regents scheduled a first hearing of tuition proposals, but it had to be postponed due to the legislature still not having a budget.

The tuition proposals have been rescheduled for June 6. The change isn’t expected to have much impact on university business as the final approval remains on schedule for the regular Regents meeting June 19-20.

The current legislative options range from leaving higher education funding flat to a four percent cut.

Brownback is recommending that funding remain the same for fiscal year 2014 through maintaining a 6.3 percent sales tax. In the Senate’s version of the budget, higher education is cut by two percent. In the House’s budget, the cut is four percent.

For K-State, this could mean a cut up to $6.7 million. Schulz said the tuition proposal is “pretty firm,” but the decision was to wait until the legislature approves a budget.

“We want to keep the option to adjust those at each university before sending them to the Regents,” he said.

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