Results from two recent Kansas Board of Regents’ gun surveys show the majority of University of Kansas employees and students opposed concealed carry on campus.
These results come amidst discussions of how to handle guns in buildings on campus if no changes are made to the current law, which will allow concealed carry in University buildings beginning July 1, 2017.
“I think the best thing that we can hope for out of this is that it gives us a little bit more evidence to say what we’ve pretty much already known, that a majority of the faculty are very much against it," said University Senate President Mike Williams.
The Kansas Board of Regents Employee Gun survey and Kansas Board of Regents Student Advisory Committee Gun survey were both prepared by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University and sent to faculty and students across the state.
In 2013, the Kansas State Legislature passed the Personal and Family Protection Act, which stated licensed gun owners could not be prohibited from bringing a gun into a state or municipal building. Colleges and universities were given an exemption to that law, which expires July 1, 2017.
The faculty and student surveys gauged the sentiments regarding concealed carry of guns on university campuses. Williams said the faculty survey results as a whole provide more evidence against having guns on campuses to present to legislators.
"They see it’s going to change how they teach, and it very well may drive away some of the faculty to go other places to work,” he said.
Gary Brinker, director of the Docking Institute at Fort Hays State, said the survey was developed with the goal of encompassing all issues surrounding gun policy that were relevant for faculty and staff.
“We thought about all the aspects of gun use, possession and storage policy that we could,” he said. “The clients, the faculty staff senators, sort of honed that and they may have cut out some questions that we suggested. I know for a fact they added several on there.”
Roughly 10,886 responses were recorded from employees at the University, as well as Kansas State University, Wichita State University, Pittsburg State University, Emporia State University and Fort Hays State University, According to the survey results. The survey returned a response rate of 54 percent, with 70 percent of total respondents saying they want the current law amended so guns are not allowed on campuses.
Brinker said the response rate was much higher than anticipated as Internet surveys typically generate a response rate of around 10 to 15 percent.
“It told me this is a topic that the faculty and staff were very concerned with, and it does speak for the validity of the data,” Brinker said. “You can be confident the survey results reflect even the ones that didn’t take it.”
Employees at the University responded with the highest opposition to concealed carry, with 82 percent saying they would prefer an amendment to the current law so guns are not allowed on campuses. Over 60 percent of University employees said they would be less likely to work at the University if concealed carry is allowed.
Approximately 54 percent of survey respondents said if the current law isn’t amended, they want their respective universities to invest in “adequate security measures.” Williams said adequate security measures are defined as walk-through metal detectors or electronic wands typically used at airports.
He said the cost of installing proper security at the University would prove problematic.
“We already know that the cost is prohibitive,” he said. "The numbers that KU has been using for estimates that is over $30 million for the installation of the device...That also includes the cost of the personnel to manage those stations. A significant ongoing cost for that would be the personnel cost.”
Williams said security measures would likely be put in place at Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium for sporting events, though they would be temporary and moved in and out on an event-to-event basis.
In the student survey, only 23 percent of University students said they were willing to pay a fee to install adequate security measures across campus. Thirty-seven percent of students said it would depend on the amount of the fee.
Another concern regarding security measures at the University is the logistics of moving large numbers of students through the security devices in the amount of time between scheduled classes.
“There’s no way you’re going to pass 2,000 people through metal detectors in 10 minutes, the usual time we have between classes,” Williams said. "So, even if we put metal detectors in every doorway, which we’re not likely to do, the reality is that will so completely mess up the scheduling of classes... The logistics of that are just outrageous, and there is no way that is going to happen.”
The student survey, which was administered to 76,559 students at the University, as well as Kansas State University, Wichita State University, Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Pittsburg State University and Washburn University, registered about a 26.9 percent response rate.
Overall, 55 percent of respondents to the student survey said they want the current law amended so guns are not allowed on campus, however, a majority of survey respondents at Kansas State, Fort Hays State and Pittsburg State responded in favor of keeping the current law and allowing the exemption to expire, or keeping the current law but extending the exemption for colleges and universities past July of 2017. Seventy percent of University students said they wanted the law amended so guns were not allowed on campuses.
Williams, who also chairs the Weapons on Campus Committee, said he and committee members will be generating a survey specifically for University staff and faculty that better addresses concerns related to specific positions beyond teaching. He said questions in the Docking Institute survey were applicable mainly to professors, and could not be applied appropriately to all staff positions.
“We had a lot of feedback from KU staff that they didn’t think the survey that came out from the Fort Hays people did an adequate job of really questioning the concerns that staff people had both here and over at Edwards Campus,” he said.
At the conclusion of the spring semester, the University should have a definitive plan of the official policies that will be in place regarding guns on campus, Williams said.
“The important thing that we are working with, is that by the end of this semester, the [Weapons on Campus Committee’s] recommendation will be merged with what is coming and being discussed at the administration level,” he said. “By the first of summer of this year, we should have an idea of what kinds of procedures are going to be in place if nothing else changes with the law.”
Williams added that the policies will likely go into effect before the exemption to the Personal and Family Protection Act expires in 2017 to allow the University time to adjust to new security measures.
“We have to plan on entering the fall of 2016 as if it will be like 2017. The intention is that we’ll have our policies and procedures ready to go, and we’ll start to implement them that far ahead of when the actual exemption will expire…” he said. “I think it would be terribly optimistic to think that this particular legislative session will produce any dramatic changes [to the law].”
— Edited by Michael Portman