HB 2074 Campus Carry

Testimony in support of HB 2074, the “campus carry” bill

In front of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, February 1, 2017

My organization represents over 2500 people of faith and conscience throughout the state of Kansas. The people I work with, particularly clergy, are very concerned about the impact of concealed carry on the people who study and work at Kansas' public colleges and universities.

The statements of the main national denominational bodies on this issue concern the general issue of gun violence rather than campus carry in particular. But they decry the rising incidence of gun violence in society and urge legislative action to address it. For example, the United Methodist Church's Book of Resolutions says,

No appeals to individual autonomy are sufficient to justify our church's ignorance of this threat [of gun violence]. The need to prevent the incidence of firearm-related injury and death is an issue of increasing concern and a priority public health issue. The United Methodist Church is among those religious communions calling for social policies and personal lifestyles that bring an end to senseless gun violence.

The action-item section of the resolution calls for “the development of advocacy groups within local congregations to advocate for the eventual reduction of the availability of guns in society.”

These concerns are based in Scripture. My own Jewish tradition emphasizes the sanctity and primary value of human life. The Torah commands us, “Thou shalt not murder” (Exodus 20:13), and the Talmud teaches us that “he who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe and he who saves one life it is as though he has saved the universe” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5).

In the New Testament, Jesus is a model of non-violence throughout his life, telling Peter on the night of his arrest, “Put your sword back in its place… for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” 

Scripture encourages peaceful pursuit of our mutual welfare. Isaiah exhorts the people of the earth to “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4). We also are commanded to turn weapons of destruction into tools for the greater good of society.

Every mainline Christian denomination, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the denominational arms of the Jewish community all have similar statements. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is representative of these bodies in its call for such measures as universal background checks and increased access to mental health services. These measures, and not the introduction of unregulated guns into our public college and university campuses, community mental centers, and hospitals, are the answers to the epidemic of gun violence in our society.

I have traveled around the state about this issue, meeting with students, faculty and staff on four of the five regents' campuses. I can say, and the research released from the Docking Institute backs this up, that the vast majority of them are opposed to concealed carry on their campuses. Many times people people have said to me, “I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and I don't think there should be concealed carry on campus.” I've had legislators say the same thing. 

Faculty members and graduate teaching assistants believe that the conditions of their employment are materially changed by the introduction of concealed carry. I have direct, personal knowledge of several professors who are leaving their employment due to this issue, and a good number of parents from both in and out of state have told us that they will not send their kids to Kansas universities if campus carry goes into effect. Given the serious “brain-drain” we already face in Kansas, we can ill afford to give our “best and brightest” such a powerful reason to leave the state.

College is a time when assumptions are challenged, when we rub shoulders with the kinds of people whom we may never have met before, when we learn new and difficult ideas. Guidelines put out by the University of Houston in response to Texas' campus carry law warned professors against speaking about controversial issues, lest someone take deadly offense. That's not the kind of open atmosphere we want and need at our colleges and universities.

Universities have research facilities that include dangerous materials, including chemicals and explosives. If a bullet were to hit one of them it could cause great damage. KU asked the Attorney General to allow them to exempt some of these areas from the law, but he rejected the request. This law also includes KU Med Center; allowing carry at there invites the street into the hospital, and it will drive away doctors, staff and patients from KU Med Center. 

The cost of putting in “adequate security measures” on even one campus building is prohibitively expensive, especially at a time when the state is cutting funding for our public universities. They can't afford to keep their students and teachers safe. That's why so many faculty senate and student government bodies have called for campus carry to be stopped, as you will no doubt hear today.

When this legislation was originally passed, there was still permitting for concealed carry permits, which required training. Since that time, the permitting requirement has been eliminated. This means that the people who would carry on college campuses when the exemption expires in June would not need to have any training at all. This makes the law significantly different than the one that was passed. In other words, conditions have changed, and so the law must be changed as well. 

As the public health experts testifying today will tell you, it is far more likely that a gun will be used on one's self or on someone one knows than on an assailant. As law enforcement will tell you, despite the mythology, more guns do not equal more safety. In the university setting, with the emotional challenges of that time of life and environment, having untrained young people carrying on campus is asking for trouble. The students don't want it, the faculty and staff don't want it, the administrations don't want it, the parents don't want it, law enforcement doesn't want it, and the religious community doesn't want it. It doesn't make sense and we call on it to be stopped.

I urge you to pass HB 2074 favorably on to the full House for consideration.

Thank you for your attention, I will be happy to take questions at the appropriate time.

 

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