By Sean Hull
By 2017, nearly anyone may be allowed to carry a concealed weapon on Kansas institutions of higher education, including JCCC.
Two policies previously passed by the Kansas legislature make this possible. The first is a bill passed last legislative session removing the requirement of a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The second is a provision in the Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act that went into effect July 1, 2013, that made it illegal for any state or municipal building to prohibit an individual from carrying a concealed weapon on their premises.
Colleges were given the option in 2013 to apply for a four-year exemption, which the college did. That exemption will expire July 1, 2017, forcing the college to allow the possession of concealed weapons on campus or fund “adequate security measures” to properly enforce a no-gun policy.
Adequate security measures are defined in state statute 75-7c20 as “the use of electronic equipment and personnel at public entrances to detect and restrict the carrying of any weapons … including, but not limited to, metal detectors, metal detector wands or any other equipment used for similar purposes.” … With several public entrances per building on campus, the costs to enforce what the provision defines as “adequate security measures” would be extremely high.
“Whenever we opted out of the law … it was going to cost somewhere around $25 million, 20 to 30 million to provide the adequate security to opt out of the statute,” said Board of Trustees member Gerald Lee Cross. “If we have a budget of 140 to 150 million and the state is asking us to fund an additional 20 to 30 million, no sir, it’s just not affordable. It is, in my estimation, an unfunded mandate.”
The decision to opt out of the law was initially made by the president of the college, and the legal counsel. Chief of Police Gregory Russell recommended at the time that the college be exempt, citing his confidence in his police force.
Russell provided a statement that was initially released to all media that read “JCCC staffs a full-time armed police force of over 20 officers, and Johnson County Community College will continue to put the safety of the students and employees first.”
It is uncertain at this moment whether the law will change by 2017 to allow colleges to renew the exemption. Chris Gray, executive director of marketing communications, says the college cannot speculate on exemptions or modifications made by the state legislature.
The Kansas Board of Regents will meet later this month to discuss a new draft policy on weapons possession, which amends their current policy to comply with the state statute. Also, according to Irene Schmidt, an adjunct professor of Spanish at the college and an officer-at-large for the Faculty Senate, a “task force” has been created to gather information that may help prepare the college for the end of the exemption in 2017. Though administration’s policy has been to refrain from speculating on what action may be taken before 2017, concern is high amongst faculty and administration as the college moves closer to the possibility of a campus open to guns.