The Kansas Legislature passed the Personal and Family Protections Act in 2012, allowing individuals to carry concealed weapons in the public buildings without exemptions or security measures in place.
The University of Kansas, under a temporary exemption from the law, was given time to develop its own policy in compliance with the state law. The KU weapons policy was approved by the Regents governance committee in December 2016 and will go into effect when the current exemption ends July 1, 2017.
Students across campus have been spilt over the topic. Different organizations on campus protested under looming deadline and now that it is evident the exemption will not be replaced, some students are dreading the change on campus. KU student Kevin Goering worries that more guns on campus increases the likelihood of a shooting incident.
“It makes me a lot less comfortable, knowing that, especially in this big of a campus, that there’s a possibility that anybody could have a gun at any point,” Goering said. “Just think of finals week. You push a student to the edge, and they’re feeling stressed and they’re more likely to snap.”
While Goering feels unsafe with concealed carry on campus, other students, like Natalie Harner, are passionate that it offers students an opportunity to defend themselves if they should be attacked.
“I think it provides a reasonable way to protect yourself. Pepper spray will help you, but it can only go so far to help you,” Harner said. “ If someone pulls a gun on you, the only thing you can have to match that is another gun.”
To address faculty members and students’ concerns, the KU Public Safety Office has already begun creating informational material and teaching classes on concealed carry and will be informing incoming freshmen and their parents about the change at orientation.
“Different areas of study have requested information so we put together a PowerPoint and we’ve done about 15 classes on just concealed carry awareness, letting people know perceptions, letting people know about the law has been in effect for awhile now,” Deputy Chief James Anguiano said.
Although they have different points of view, Harner and Goering both voiced the same concerns about the qualifications of those carrying. The state of Kansas does not require an open carry permit or any sort of training. As long as other state or federal laws do not restrict them, individuals age 21 and over, not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, are allowed to carry. This means those who are mentally unstable, inexperienced, or even legally blind are allowed to have a gun on them.
“I would encourage people, even though it’s not required, to take a concealed carry class, so if this is the first time they’ve ever had a gun, they can understand how to use it and get some training,” Anguiano said. “A list of qualified concealed carry instructors is on the Attorney General of Kansas website.”
Even if the person carrying the weapon is trained, accidents happen. Anguiano said that a lot of students who have considered carrying changed their minds when considering that they could be mistaken for the suspect in an intense scenario.
Goering insists that even if the shooter has the best intentions, the situation “still ends up taking people’s lives. If there is ever an incident, it will most likely be a fatal one and that’s hard to take in. Bringing more guns on campus is just bringing more risk.”
In order to manage this risk, KU Police has brought on more staff in hopes to get officers right at the scene, should an incident occur. They have hired three new police officers and four security officers to patrol on foot. The officers will be assigned quadrants and will respond to calls from concerned faculty and students. Anguiano encourages anyone on campus to call or notify an officer if they notice any suspicious people carrying, even if it is concealed.
“It’s looking to make sure that someone’s in compliance with the policy and if not, educating them,” Anguiano said. “The thing about concealed carry is if you’re doing it properly, people shouldn’t know you’re carrying a weapon.”
Having concealed carry on campus is causing fear in a lot of students, but it has been legal off campus for some time now, and Anguiano thinks some perspective would alleviate anxiety for many students.
“Concealed carry has been in Kansas for 10 years and we’ve lived our lives off campus, knowing that people probably have guns, so just live your life normally,” Anguiano said. “You really should be thinking about your personal safety 24 hours a day regardless.”