There could be more guns in Kansas schools following legislation in Topeka this week.
In a 35-5 vote Wednesday, the state Senate approved a bill expanding the number of public buildings where concealed weapons are allowed. The measure includes a provision allowing local school boards, community and technical college boards and state university administrators to designate employees who could carry concealed weapons, even if such firearms are banned from campus buildings.
The House has already approved its own version of the same measure, and a final version is expected to emerge from negotiations between the two chambers next week, according to the Associated Press.
Several McPherson County school superintendents said they do not think weapons in the hands of faculty or staff would add to their school’s security.
“My opinion is that it’s probably not in the best interest to have staff members carrying weapons to secure a building,” Randy Watson of McPherson USD 418 said. “I think we would feel more safe using our district safety and security team.”
This team is comprised of police officers, the fire department, emergency preparedness personnel, and other similar entities, who work with the school to prepare them for everything from tornadoes to intruders.
“I would feel more safe in the recommendations from that committee rather than from anyone who’s passed a basic firearms class,” he said. “I don’t think that necessarily makes us safer. I think there’s potential for misuse.”
The McPherson Board of Education has not discussed the matter, therefore Watson was unsure of what their opinion would be. If the law would be passed, however, he said discussions with public input would take place.
Bill Seidel of Canton-Galva USD 419 said weapons in schools would give individuals a false sense of security.
“The reality of it is you’re not going to prevent anything,” he said. “Having a gun in your home doesn’t keep a burglar from coming in and creating a problem. Let’s just say you have a weapon in your desk. The reality of someone sitting at their desk when this happens is possible, but not probable.”
Further questions are then raised, he said, such as how to carry it everywhere or how many bullets it would carry.
“We can provide locks and security cameras, we can secure our schools more, we can train our students and staff, and then try to conduct business as usual,” he said.
Seidl said the board of education and the community would have to have a lot of conversation about their approach if the law passed.
Page 2 of 2 - “If it keeps a family from sending kids to your school, is that any different than having a family coming to school because you don’t have one?” he said. “There’s a lot more involved than if you will or you won’t.”
Chad Higgins of Moundridge USD 423 said their board has not had discussions about this legislation, but he is in favor of allowing the local districts to decide for themselves what is appropriate.
Higgins also said in the past he worked in a school where a school resource officer, or school police officer, was present.
“It did provide a sense of security,” he said. “Having a police officer walk the halls of the school or be here incase of an emergency does provide comfort for kids and staff. But a trained operator is different than a teacher or coach.”
State senators are also expected to consider another proposal next week regarding federal regulation of firearms.
This gun-related legislation follows a spike in increased interest for conceal-carry permits from Kansas as the federal government discusses regulations. Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office reported that 3,573 people applied for permits in February, up from the previous record of 3,167 in January. Before this year, the previous record was 1,651 applications in March 2012, according to the Associated Press.
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