Political shift, hospital's fears hand NRA defeat in Kansas

Joanna Estrada
June 5, 2017

But the passage of the more limited bill still breaks a long string of legislative victories for the NRA and other gun-rights advocates since Brownback took office in January 2011.

But the GOP-controlled Legislature felt compelled to consider a bill dealing with hospitals after Brownback proposed last month that the cash-strapped state spend $24 million over two years on security upgrades at its hospital for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. The bill will next pass to Governor Sam Brownback [official website] for his consideration.

The bill will allow Lawrence Memorial Hospital as well as the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and the University of Kansas hospital to continue banning guns in their buildings.

Under a law passed in 2013, public hospitals in the state would have to legally permit entry to persons carrying concealed handguns beginning July 1. Officials with the university health system said [Kansas City Star report] providing security would be costly to hospitals and allowing concealed weapons to be on premises would impact employment recruiting.

The Kansas Senate has approved a bill aimed at keeping concealed guns out of state hospitals and other public health care facilities.

The NRA and other gun-rights advocates wanted to limit the exemption to fewer institutions and only to certain areas in those facilities.

Senators voted 24-16 against an amendment from Senate President Susan Wagle.

"I'm more interested in health care and economics than I am in my NRA rating", Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a conservative Overland Park Republican, told his colleagues during debate. It also applies to state psychiatric hospitals as well as municipally owned hospitals, indigent care clinics, community mental health centers and adult care homes.

The state has been a testing ground for gun-rights advocates' favored policies, but the Legislature was able to rewrite Kansas' 2013 concealed carry law because voters upset with Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's allies ousted two dozen conservatives and gave Democrats and GOP moderates more power. The bill being debated would grant a permanent exemption to state hospitals, other public hospitals, mental health centers, some nursing homes and the University of Kansas Health System and teaching hospital. Despite Brownback's gun-rights leanings, his administration wants to avoid costly security upgrades at state hospitals.

The Kansas State Rifle Association sent an email to members and supporters ahead of a scheduled Senate debate Thursday. The Supreme Court did not say how much funding must increase in setting a June 30 deadline for lawmakers to pass a new school funding law. Members of the Moms Demand Action group, wearing red T-shirts and lobbying for what they view as commonsense guns laws, are pushing for an exemption for universities.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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