At their meeting on Tuesday, March 14, members of the Butler Community College Board of Trustees discussed a concealed carry policy for its campuses in preparation for the exemption of concealed carry of handguns at public Kansas colleges and universities expiring this summer. Local attorney Ray Connell talked with trustees about a proposed concealed and carry policy in order for BCC to be prepared.

"As most people are aware, they passed a law – K.S.A. 75-7c01, the title of which was Personal and Family Protection Act – and it provided that, in Kansas, people are entitled to carry a concealed handgun regardless of whether you have training certification. That's the law in Kansas. The legislature feels every person has a constitutional right to bear arms, and that means you can carry it on your person. They exempted the community colleges and medical facility hospitals for a period of years, and that exemption runs out July 1 of this year. So we've drafted a policy to address the right of individuals to carry a concealed gun on the Butler Community College campuses – what's permitted, what's not permitted – in order to be in compliance with that law by July 1," Connell said.

Connell explained that the property at high school campuses, McConnell Air Force Base and the EduCare Center Learning Lab will continue to forbid concealed carry after July 1 – even though BCC is present at those locations. Sites that the college has leased may be affected by the exemption expiration and the consequential policy being drafted. However, that will probably defer to the landlords of those sites.

Connell advised taking steps as soon as possible for the college to prepare a completed concealed carry policy for July due to the pertinence and timetable of the situation.

"We had hoped that the legislature would see their way clear to extending the exemption for future years. And there were some bills introduced that would have accomplished that, but none of them got out of committee. So, we're not optimistic that this July 1 date would change. We think it's probably going to be our date that you need to have your policy reviewed and approved and implemented before that time," Connell said.

He went on to explain certain attributes of the college's concealed carry policy that he's helping to draft and how the policy relates to the law. As the policy currently stands, to legally carry a concealed firearm on BCC campuses after July 1....

You have to be at least 21 years of age, and you don't need any certification or qualification. However, you can't concealed carry if you fall into a list of people who, by federal or state restrictions, are not entitled to have firearms.

The firearm must be a handgun that you can hold in a single hand. This excludes rifles, shotguns and knives.

You must have the handgun on your person, and it should not visible to the public. It has to be under a coat or clothing. You may have the gun in a purse, backpack or some secure bag on your person. However, you may not leave the bag anywhere; it must remain on or attached to your person.

The handgun must be carried in a secure way; not just tucked in a belt. It should be in some sort of holster.

You can't have a bullet chambered or a bullet that would be active if the gun was accidentally knocked over or triggered. (However, there's a law that's been introduced in the legislature that would prohibit this restriction by the college. So, it remains to be seen whether or not the legislature will permit this restriction in the future.)

Students in the dormitories will be allowed to have a handgun. They must store the handgun in a locked, secure storage box. It cannot be left on a bed or desk or away from your person at all. You may leave the handgun in your personal vehicle – but it must remain out of site, and the vehicle must be locked. BCC will not provide storage facilities on campus for handguns.

As guests on the campuses, international students would be entitled to the concealed carry policy. As of yet, there's no prohibition in the college's policy for people who are not U.S. citizens to carry a concealed handgun under state law. This may change.

Faculty and staff at the college will be under the same concealed carry policy as students. Violations will be met with equal punishment for faculty and students. Both groups will be subject to the same sanctions.

The college's policy asks that students contact the Student Safety Office if there is a violation or suspicion of a violation according to the law or the policy that will be in place.

"If the college had unlimited resources, they could be exempt from the concealed carry policy completely by having an armed or security system at each building's entrance. So, you couldn't go in without going through a metal detector, and it would be manned by a public safety officer. If you do that, then you don't have to allow concealed carry guns in that building. Unfortunately ... that's ... 1.7 million dollars a year to do that on all the campuses and the buildings that you have," Connell said.

The board of trustees is working with Connell to have a draft of the policy ready for approval soon.

"My goal is to, really, have something in front of you at the April board meeting. This is, like, the month to talk about it, review it and then have something for you to approve in April. And, that way, there's about a month period of time between the approval of the policy – however that ends up being – and when students leave after commencement and at the end of the semester and faculty are gone for the summer. I'd rather have it done, you know, in April if we possibly can so that people have a little bit of time to understand and we have time to get information out publicly about the changes. And so people aren't caught kind of off-guard the very first of July. So, it's really about trying to make sure people are informed and they're part of conversations and they have opportunities to ask questions before this has to take place," BCC President Kimberly Krull said.

After BCC has approved and implemented their concealed carry policy for July 1, amendments may be made to it as needed as long as the changes are in compliance with the law.

Krull also echoed Cornell's thoughts that upcoming actions in the legislature may affect the dynamics of the college's concealed carry policy that's being drafted.

"For right now, this is the draft that we're working from. We're still, like Ray said, still kind of waiting to see what comes out of the legislature. House Bill 2220, that there was testimony last week on that, if that bill passes and is approved by the legislature, much of what's in here will go away because, basically, that bill will say we can't put any kind of restrictions on how they're stored [or] how they're carried. And it's really kind of in response to the university policies that have already been approved by the Board of Regents. And they're very similar to what we have. But that House Bill 2220 basically says, you know: you comply with the state law that they can conceal and carry, but as institutions we can't say how. Or we can't restrict in any way the way that they carry or possess or store their weapon," Krull said.

She added that conversation with the BCC community about concealed carry on campus will be ongoing as July 1 approaches.

Krull also gave an update on the status of the college's Master Site and Facilities Plan request for proposal (RFP) that was released on Jan. 23.

"We're still in the middle of this process. We received seven proposals .... After we had held our pre-proposal mandatory meeting for any of the architectural or planning firms that were interested, the initial RFP was mailed to, I think, 18 ... different firms all across the state – a couple in Omaha, St. Louis [and] Kansas City. And so, we were really pleased with the number that indicated letters of interest and then showed up at the pre-proposal meeting, and then seven proposals that came in. Really, from Wichita, Omaha, El Dorado ... most of them in Kansas. Proposals that we hope, when we get a selected vendor narrowed down, that can really give us a comprehensive view of our college as a whole – our El Dorado and Andover sites and even some of the outlying areas that we have. But really the focus is El Dorado and Andover. And, really, what started this whole conversation was: as Andover School District got more engaged and started through their process of master planning and were really starting to discuss the changes in their facilities for the Andover School District, that's really what started our conversations more than a year ago about the need to do the same thing. Because, as those conversations in Andover progressed, it became pre-apparent that they were looking at some potential proposals at Andover High School that were not going to include us being able to stay at the 6000 building beyond the period of our current lease. And so, we really put together an RFP that would try to help provide not just physical facility information for us, but space utilization and scheduling and, you know, helping us set that longterm vision for the college," Krull said.

The proposals are being scored, reviewed and compiled. A few of the architectural or planning firms with highest scoring proposals will be invited to BCC to give presentations about their proposals and how they would help put the master plan together. Then, one firm will be selected from that group to construct the master plan.

"That selected vendor would spend spring and summer and fall putting that all together with the hope that we would have a master plan in front of us before Thanksgiving. The expectation is that they would spend, you know, time on our campuses talking to students and faculty and staff and employees – probably board members as well – and really helping dig in and look at the work that we currently do and the space that we currently have and the vision and strategic plans that we have in place, you know, to help us put together a plan for the future," Krull said.

She stressed that the college doesn't want a facilities master plan that just sits on the shelf – but a plan that will be used years down the road. One of the priorities in the plan will be how to incorporate the services and facilities of the 6000 building at the Andover campus into the 5000 building. That project also has a relatively tight timeframe, so it's a necessary focus.

The college has a strategic plan which was adopted in 2013 that outlines goals for the college's future. Yet, faculty and administrators recognize that integrating an overall facilities plan in cooperation with the extant strategic plan can be an important catalyst for reaching the college's future goals. The last effective facilities plan was from 2003.

"These types of plans [for facilities] are meant to forecast 10 to 15 years. So we do it periodically," Kent Williams, vice president of finance, said.

Levi Yager can be reached at lyager@butlercountytimesgazette.com.