If you keep a handgun in your backpack and the professor calls you to the front of the class to answer a question, take the backpack with you. If your weapon is holstered on you, make sure your shirt or jacket won’t ride up and show it off if you bend down to tie your shoes.
Such is the practical guidance state universities and colleges in Kansas are giving students, faculty and visitors because of a state law allowing concealed weapons on their campuses. The change took affect July 1, and the campuses have anticipated it with a flurry of new policies, online guides and videos.
Administrators say they can’t predict how many people will carry concealed weapons on campuses or how many complaints their police might receive about potential violations of the keep-weapons-hidden policies.
“We are hoping this will have, if any, very little impact,” said Ronnie Grice, Kansas State University’s police chief. “It’s even hard to guess at.”
Tweaks to the law
The law allows people 21 or older to carry concealed weapons on campus and into buildings that don’t have “adequate” security such as metal detectors and armed guards. Their policies ban the open carrying of weapons.
The change was part of a broader 2013 law designed to allow gun owners to take their weapons into public buildings. Lawmakers gave universities, colleges and public health facilities a four-year exemption. This year, they granted health facilities a permanent one.
The National Conference of State Legislatures says Kansas is among 10 states allowing campus carry, with Arkansas and Georgia enacting laws this year.
“There will be absolutely no change on campus, other than students being able to provide for their own safety,” said National Rifle Association spokesman Catherine Mortensen.
A separate 2015 Kansas law ended a requirement that gun owners obtain a state permit to carry concealed, making critics of campus carry more nervous about the possibility of accidents.
Extra screening expenses
Concealed guns still will be barred at some events with large crowds. For example, Kansas State announced this week that it would impose “enhanced screening” at home football and basketball games.
But universities and colleges concluded they couldn’t afford the extra security for all entrances to all buildings. Greg Musil, chairman of Johnson County Community College’s board of trustees, said it has about 160 entrances on its campuses that would have to be secured, with metal detectors costing about $5,500 each.
“Everybody knew when they passed that, that nobody could do anything except allow concealed carry,” Musil said.
Johnson County Community College’s policy is that gun owners either must lock their weapons, out of sight, in their cars, or keep them close. Universities allow for storage in buildings such as dormitories — if the gun owner provides an approved, secure container.
“If it is in a backpack or a brief case, something like that, it has to be under the control of the person,” said Bev Temaat, vice president of student services at Dodge City Community College. “It has to be within hand’s reach.”