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HAYS, Kansas — Beginning in July 2017, a state law will make it legal to carry a concealed weapon into a college campus building. The Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University conducted a survey to gather opinions from faculty and staff at universities throughout the Kansas Board of Regents system.
The results showed that a strong majority, 70 percent of the 54 percent who responded to the survey, would prefer to see the law changed so that handguns are not allowed inside campus buildings. Overall, the majority of respondents indicated that allowing concealed carry on campus by all groups would make them feel less safe. Only 53 percent said they would feel less safe if they carried a concealed handgun. In contrast, 82 percent said they would feel less safe if students were allowed to carry concealed handguns on campus.
The Kansas Legislature passed two laws in recent years that will open campus buildings to the concealed carry of guns effective on July 1, 2017.
In 2012, the Legislature passed the Personal and Family Protection Act, overriding local gun ordinances statewide and allowing concealed-carry permit holders to carry their weapons in almost all public buildings. Guns could be banned only if a building had adequate security measures to keep all weapons out. Some public locations, including universities, were allowed a temporary exemption from the new law, postponing concealed carry until 2017. In addition, in 2015 the Legislature passed a follow-up measure allowing anyone who can lawfully own a gun to carry it loaded and hidden without a concealed-carry permit.
With the prospect of concealed carry becoming a reality on university campuses next year, the Regents and officials at the state universities have begun to prepare for the change, and feelings have run high on both sides of the issue.
The Regents Council of Faculty Senate Presidents, in collaboration with the Regents University Support Staff Council, commissioned the Docking Institute to gather faculty and staff opinions and policy preferences regarding guns on their campuses.
Faculty senate presidents from seven of the Regents universities (Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Kansas University, Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University and Wichita State University) helped obtain email addresses of all faculty and staff employed at their respective universities. The survey instrument was constructed by researchers at the Docking Institute and sent back to the presidents for review and modification.
The survey was launched on Dec. 3, 2015, and a total of 20,151 faculty and staff were invited to participate. Data collection ended on Jan. 4, and 10,886 responses were received, resulting in a response rate of 54 percent. There is no margin of error because all faculty and staff were invited to participate in the study.
“The healthy response rate from each institution and the overall response rate of 54 percent are proof of the concern campus employees have with the current weapons policy,” said Dr. Lorie Cook-Benjamin, associate professor at Fort Hays State, president of the FHSU Faculty Senate and chair of the Council of Faculty Senate Presidents. “The survey’s results clearly show that a majority of our employees want to see the law amended so guns are not allowed on campus.”
Some key results from the survey:
- When asked their policy preference regarding concealed handguns on campus, the majority (70 percent) of respondents preferred amending the law so that guns are not allowed on campus, and 7 percent favored keeping the current law but extending the exemption past 2017. Nearly one-fifth favored keeping the current law and allowing the exemption to expire, which would then allow guns on campus. The 4 percent who responded “Don’t Know” suggests that few do not have an opinion on this issue.
- More than half (54 percent) of respondents said they would favor their university expending the necessary resources to implement “adequate security measures,” 23 percent said it would depend upon the cost, 16 percent said they would not favor their university expending the necessary resources, and 7 percent said they did not know. The law allows concealed weapons to be banned if those security measures are in place, but it is problematic whether the measures would be affordable and whether they would be manageable on a campus where large crowds must pass quickly from building to building.
- When asked how seeing a screening station as they enter a university facility would affect their sense of safety, almost half (45 percent) of respondents indicated they would feel safer, 24 percent said they would feel less safe, 24 percent said it would not affect their sense of safety, and 7 percent said they did not know.
- Overall, the majority of respondents favored the prohibition of guns in all buildings, at sporting events and in open areas of campus. Respondents were slightly more likely to favor allowing concealed carry by faculty and staff than students or visitors.
- Respondents were slightly more likely to favor prohibiting guns at sporting events than all other areas. Respondents were most likely to favor allowing concealed carry in open areas of campus by all groups and in faculty offices by faculty and staff.
- With the exception of campus police or public safety offices (63 percent), about 43 percent supported allowing the secure storage of handguns on campus, assuming guns are allowed on campus. There was slightly less opposition to secure storage in locked vehicles, and relatively few opposed secure storage in campus police or public safety offices. Opinions regarding the secure storage of shotguns and hunting rifles were similar.
- The vast majority of respondents (90 percent) favored requiring a permit to carry a concealed gun on campus, 7 percent favored allowing concealed carry without a permit, and 4 percent said they did not know.
- About half of respondents said they would be less likely to work at their university if concealed carry were allowed. Only 8 percent indicated they would be more likely to work at their university, and 42 percent said it would not affect their decision.
- Most respondents (68 percent) indicated they at least occasionally teach material that challenges some students’ views and deeply held beliefs in ways that some may find uncomfortable. Similarly, 70 percent said they discuss material that challenges views and deeply held beliefs in ways that others may find uncomfortable.
- Overall, the majority (70 percent) of respondents indicated allowing guns on campus would negatively impact their course and how they teach; 20 percent disagreed.
- Two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents said that allowing guns in the classroom limits their academic freedom to teach the material and engage with students in a way that optimizes learning, while 24 percent disagreed.
- Three-fifths (60 percent) of respondents agree they are concerned that they will need to change how they teach their course if guns are allowed in the classroom. Twenty-four percent disagreed.
- More than half (57 percent) of respondents indicated allowing guns on campus would negatively impact the service and/or outreach work they conduct with clients/community members on campus; 27 percent disagreed.
- Fifty-six percent of respondents said they are concerned that they will need to change how they provide services and/or outreach work they conduct with clients/community members on campus if guns were allowed; 28 percent disagreed.
- Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents agreed that allowing guns on campus would negatively impact how they conduct their research; 31 percent disagreed.
- Forty-four percent of respondents agree they are concerned that they will need to change how they conduct their research if guns are allowed.
- Nearly half (46 percent) believe that allowing concealed carry on campus would increase campus crime levels, 16 percent thought it would decrease campus crime, 22 percent said it would not affect campus crime, and 16 percent said they did not know.
- Respondents were most confident in their campus police or security force’s ability to maintain a safe environment, with 68 percent indicating they are at least somewhat confident.
- Respondents had the least confidence in their campus police or security force’s ability to enforce a gun-free policy, with only 46 percent being at least somewhat confident.
- Respondents were most evenly divided in their level of confidence with their campus police or security force’s ability to respond quickly to an active shooter, with 59 percent expressing that they are at least somewhat confident.
- The majority (91 percent) of respondents indicated their primary work occurs on campus. Only 9 percent said their primary work occurs off campus.