In 2013, a bill was legislated which sought to expand gun laws in Kansas by permitting residents to carry concealed guns in state or municipal buildings, but public colleges and hospitals were exempted from this privilege. However, this exemption is going to expire on July 1, 2017.
After four years since the passing of this bill, officials are toiling to keep weapons out from the premises of state hospitals, especially psychiatric facilities. However, escape is not a solution. Lawmakers will eventually have to pass a new legislation that makes the exemption of public schools and state hospitals permanent, or implements strict security measures.
Under the 2013 bill, state hospitals and psychiatric facilities can still continue a ban on weapons after July 1 if they are able to meet particular criteria on satiating the much needed but very costly security requirements. Measures such as installing metal detectors to keep weapons at bay and hiring full-time security personnel, would cost millions.
A portion of advocacy groups and lawmakers has tried rolling back certain constituents of the 2013 law for the past four years, but efforts have faltered and not so fruitful. Nonetheless, as the deadline encroaches upon everyone, the gun debate reignites again within the Kansas legislature.
Proponents of mental health clearly advocate a permanent exemption of gun rights inside the boundaries of hospitals and facilities. “As a general principle, dollars for treating the mentally ill are incredibly constrained, and the idea that we would use those constrained dollars to implement security measures instead of treating the mentally ill just doesn’t seem — it’s not a high-quality idea in our minds,” remarked Colin Thomasset, the associate director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas.
On the contrary, if the powerful gun lobby in Kansas is able to pass legislation regarding expansive gun rights laws, the unwanted implications will be difficult to limit or subdue. So far, the National Rifle Association along with its local affiliate stand opposed to the House Bill 2278 which exempts community mental-health centers, state hospitals, indigent health-care clinics and adult care homes from concealed carry of weapons.
However, even if such a legislation is passed, health-care facilities and rehabilitation centers can simply debar the possession of firearms within premises even without costly security measures. As a result, the NRA designates the House Bill as a “solution to a non-existent problem.” “It places an arbitrary boundary on your right to self-defense,” according to the organization’s legislative arm.
According to Tim Keck, head of the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services, legislators will have no qualms passing the new bill granting exemptions to hospitals. Keck’s agency is in charge of four state-owned hospitals, two psychiatric facilities, and two centers for disabled people. “Our patients at state hospitals are the sickest of the sick from a mental-health standpoint…They go there and are admitted there because they’re a danger to themselves and others… We shouldn’t put guns close to their access. I’m a Second Amendment person and a conservative myself, but I don’t think it’s safe to have at state hospitals.”
Another representative favoring hospital exemptions is Thomasset whose agency represents a total of 26 community mental-health centers. Recently, while giving a testimony to the Senate Committee, he regurgitated Keck’s opinion saying that such centers “by statute must treat every person who walks through the door; so if an individual who is in crisis walks through our door carrying a concealed weapon, that situation presents a dangerous scenario not only to our staff, but also for other patients seeking treatment.”