By Loribeth Reynolds
The clock is ticking away. Only 18 months until 21-year-old students will be allowed to carry concealed firearms on Kansas college campuses, including Hutchinson Community College.
Texas has adopted a similar law, effective Aug. 1. As the deadline approaches, Texas lawmakers have been confronted with confusion on how to implement the law. Kansas could be facing the same uncertainties.
Brett Bright, HCC vice president of student services, said Texas could be a model for how Kansas campuses deal with the new gun law.
“There are other states that have adopted similar laws that will go into effect this year, so maybe we will have a better idea of what to expect this fall,” Bright said.
A recent survey done by Fort Hays State University questioned about 10,800 faculty and staff at six major Kansas universities, and it revealed that many Kansans are still hesitant about the law.
Steve Dunmire, head of campus security at Hutchinson Community College, said that it’s up to the board of trustees whether they will beef-up campus security when the time comes.
The FHSU survey showed that 54 percent of staff and faculty on Kansas college campuses would support spending to create more security on campus once this law is in place.
Dunmire disclosed that he is content not carrying a firearm, for now.
“It’s up to the board of trustees if I carry or not,” Dunmire said.
“Right now I’m content with not carrying. I’m not opposed to conceal and carry, but it’s untrained people that cause me concern.”
Dunmire is not alone with this concern. He is referring to a Kansas law passed last year, that abolished the permits to obtain a concealed carry license.
The survey also showed that 90 percent of Kansas’s college faculty and staff are in favor of amending the law to require persons who carry a firearm to obtain a permit to do so.
“When I was working on the police force, we had to undergo intensive training,” Dunmire said. “You had to shoot at 80 percent or better to be able to carry a firearm.”
Bright explained that he is still on the fence when it comes to his carrying a gun on campus.
“It depends on the culture and environment on the campus; at this point I have not made that decision,” Bright said. “I am hopeful that there will be additional legislation that occurs before the law is enacted in 2017.”
Some students are concerned about the law too.
Many have questions whether there would be exceptions to the rule.
One of the provisions causing confusion with the Texas law is to create “gun free zones” on campuses.
Although Kansas does not have a provision in its law for gun free zones, Caitlyn Sketchley, a student from Hutchinson, said she thinks a gun free zone on the HCC campus would be a good idea.
“I would support a gun free zone because not everyone is wild about the idea of guns on campus,” Sketchley said. “ A gun free zone would provide some equality and respect for more than just pro-gun individuals.”
Sami Harmon, a student from Derby, believes that not everyone should be able to carry a gun onto campus, and especially the dorms.
“I’m not to fond of the idea of guns in being allowed in the dorms,” Harmon said. “It won’t make me feel safe. I don’t feel safe with people who may not know how to use a gun.”
Bright said that most students living in the dorms will not have the option to carry a concealed weapon until they are of age.
“The majority of the students that live on campus are under the required age of 21, so they will not be allowed to have a weapon in the residence hall,” Bright said. “A individual who is over the age of 21 that may have the ability to carry will have a great responsibility to maintain control over the weapon at all times.
“Personally, I am against the thought of a gun in the residence hall because of the liability a student will encounter even if they have experience handling a weapon.”
Students will soon be able to carry concealed firearms on Hutchinson Community College campus and there have already been talks about preparing.
“In about three weeks we will have our annual meeting with a number of security and campus police forces,” Dunmire said. “I’m guessing that the two hot topics will be concealed carry and active shooter.”
Dunmire said that in the near future HCC could conduct active shooter drills with the aid of law enforcement and emergency personnel to help the college be better prepared for emergency situations.