For the first time, Kansas is allowing students and professors to carry concealed weapons on public university and college campuses – and so far, the state is having mixed results.
The 2013 law – known as known as the Public Building Security Act, which amended Kansas’ Personal and Family Protection Act – legalized concealed carry in all public buildings, but was not implemented on college and university campuses until July 1st.
While a bill was introduced earlier this year to allow these colleges and universities to remain exempt from the law, it was promptly – and rightfully – shut down.
As a result, many Kansas professors have resigned, claiming campus carry makes colleges less safe and stifles open and free debate (do I even need to point out the irony, here?).
Others decided to keep their jobs and protest the law in a different way, like University of Kansas film and media studies professor Kevin Willmott.
Willmott showed up to the first day of class on Tuesday wearing a bullet proof vest – not exactly an original idea.
“Try to forget I’m wearing a bulletproof vest and I’ll try to forget that you could be packing a .44 Magnum,” the professor told his students, according to The Kansas City Star.
Willmott says he’ll be wearing the vest all year long.
“It is difficult to adjust my mind to the current policy of handguns covertly being anywhere on campus through the policy of conceal and carry,” he explains in a statement. “This is not the Kansas I grew up knowing and loving.”
“The Kansas I grew up in always had a level of moderation,” he continues. “It is in the spirit of that levelheadedness and restraint that I have decided to wear a bulletproof vest while teaching my courses this year at Kansas University.”
We’re not exactly sure how wearing a bulletproof vest to class everyday is levelheaded or restrained, but as long as it doesn’t interfere with students’ learning, it’s fine with us.
Wilmott goes on to say that, “The core of this policy [campus carry] appears keeping the gun hidden and unseen.” Yes, that is how the concealed carry works.
“The lawmakers have made the law such that we can easily forget it exists because it is out of sight and thus out of mind,” he writes. “I believe their hope is to lull those who must live and work on campus and within this policy into compliance based on the fact we simply don’t see it function. Guns will be everywhere but always out of view.”
“This is where the vest comes in,” he explains. “I hope by wearing the vest that it is a constant reminder to all of us that our students could have a gun.”
But where was Wilmott in 2013 when the state legalized concealed carry in all public buildings? What about in 2015 when Kansas passed constitutional carry? Why wasn’t he wearing his vest around town then?
The point is, all law-abiding Kansans (over a certain age) have a right to protect themselves and that right shouldn’t disappear just because they’ve stepped onto school ground. Because – despite what people like Wilmott think – the only people gun free zones actually protect are criminals.
Unfortunately, Wilmott isn’t the only Kansas professor who thinks gun free zones will somehow keep campuses safer.
The Kansas City Star draws attention to a 2015 survey which shows that a solid majority (70-percent) of faculty and staff at Kansas’ public, four-year universities support amending the 2013 law so that no guns are allowed on campus.
But whether or not Kansas professors want guns on campus, students can carry on university grounds – and many are doing exactly that.
When University of Kansas senior, Tom, returned to class Monday he brought his standard school supplies, his schedule, and now his Glock 19.
“I mean, I’m just a normal student who cares about their safety and the safety of people around them,” he tells The Kansas City Star. “You see all this stuff on the news about people getting killed and having no way to protect themselves. That is why I choose to carry.”
Tom says that he never really thought about needing to protect himself against violence on campus until Sandy Hook.
“The way I look at it personally is, if I can [carry a concealed handgun] and I already have the gun, why not take it with me just in case something were to happen? I mean, you never know what is going to happen with all the violent incidents that have been happening over the past few years at colleges and other schools,” he explains.
Tom brings up another great point: “With this new law here I feel safer, not just because I carry…I also think that it creates some sort of deterrent for people who could be planning to do something. They could be thinking, ‘Well, these people have guns. So if I go in there and do something, I might get killed in the process.’”
Hopefully professors like Wilmott won’t deter other students from exercising their Second Amendment rights on campus. However, since students aren’t required to disclose such information, we won’t know just how many are taking advantage of the new law.
I guess all we can do now is wait and see how many days Wilmott can stand wearing that vest.