Come July, even mentally ill patients confined to institutions in Kansas can carry concealed firearms.
In 2013, the state of Kansas enacted a gun-rights law to ensure gun owners the right to carry concealed weapons into more public buildings. However, public hospitals, mental health centers, universities, and colleges were exempted for four years. That exemption expires July 1.
Now Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R) is scrambling to produce $24 million to ban concealed guns at state hospitals for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled and other facilities that do not maintain extra security measures like security guards or metal detectors. Needed is $810,000 for metal detectors in hospitals, and $23.4 million over two years to hire 180 armed security guards.
The Kansas State Rifle Association is opposed to amending the law.
Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore (D-Kansas City), said:
“Considering the muscle the NRA is willing to flex, I think override is what becomes very difficult.”
House and Senate budget committee members doubt the state can hire and train the new employees required before July. Cory Gwaltney, legislative director for the Department for Aging and Disability Services, claims the state would need three or four months to get the new workers hired.
State Rep. Erin Davis (R-Olathe) said:
“It’s pretty short-sighted to be coming to us this late in the day.”
But while the state is scrambling, higher education officials have been for months drafting new policies for dealing with guns in their buildings. The three largest universities plan to spend more than $2 million to prohibit weapons at sporting events.
Some lawmakers suggest the 2013 law should remain unchanged because it allows gun owners to protect themselves; others disagree over which institutions should be allowed to continue the gun ban, although support leans strongest toward public hospitals, the state’s hospitals for the mentally ill in Larned and Osawatomie, and its hospitals for the developmentally disabled in Parsons and Topeka.
The $24 million required to protect these currently gun-free locations comes at a time when Gov. Brownback is slashing taxes for businesses and affluent households, leading to a $350 million budget shortfall.
Featured image from Mental Health Tips.