A Kansas legislative committee passed a bill Wednesday morning to allow concealed guns in public buildings and to allow teachers to carry guns at school.
The state House Federal and State Affairs Committee passed legislation to allow concealed carry of firearms in public buildings unless the building had a series of security procedures implemented. The approval followed another vote on an amendment allowing school districts to permit teachers to carry concealed weapons during the school day.
“It is an excellent bill and a great step forward. With these gun-free zones and what we have seen around the country, they are a target for mentally ill people to do mass harm to folks,” state Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady (R-Palco) told The Huffington Post. “They are having the opposite effect. It is putting the public at risk. The only people following the law are the law abiding citizens who are potential victims. If we empower them to defend themselves they can.”
State Rep. Brett Hildabrand (R-Shawnee), who presented the guns-for-teachers amendment, said the proposal gives school boards discretion to decide whether or not to implement it. School boards then would also have the option of deciding which specific teachers could carry a gun.
Hildabrand said that he knows retired police officers who are now teachers and that a school board could limit gun-carrying privileges to them alone. Arming teachers would prevent situations like the fatal school shooting in December in Connecticut, he said.
“If someone goes into a school with the intent of a mass murder and knows that there is no law abiding person who can fight back, they would be more wiling. If they don’t know if someone would shoot back it creates hesitation,” he said.
State Rep. Emily Perry (D-Mission) voted against the guns-for-teachers provision, noting that there are other ways schools can be made safer. Teachers she’s spoken to have expressed opposition to the idea, said Perry, who also noted the costs to install the required security equipment.
The bill would allow public colleges, nursing homes and hospitals to have a four-year waiver on allowing guns, which Perry unsuccessfully sought to have extended every four years. Hildabrand said the extensions were unnecessary since the Legislature could discuss the issue again in 2017.
Perry also sought to include mental health centers in the list of places that would ban concealed carry, an effort which failed. “We need to help those struggling with mental health,” Perry told HuffPost. “The idea of mixing concealed carry with mental health is not a good idea.”
But Couture-Lovelady said those opposing concealed carry in public buildings do not realize the danger of having gun-free environments.
“There is a lot of fear out there that doesn’t match up with reality and logic,” he said. “Gun-free zones actually hurt people and don’t help.”