Concealed carry laws on school grounds explained
Recent changes in Kansas gun laws even had the Augusta Police Chief confused about whether it was illegal for one gun owner to have his weapon at the high school football stadium during graduation. School attorneys say this is a grey area in the law that needs to be cleared up.
"Usually we don't get these questions until something has already happened," said Lori Church, an attorney for the Kansas Association of School Boards.
She's talking about something like a gun accidentally going off during a graduation ceremony.
Police say the gun's owner holds a valid Kansas Concealed Carry permit. But signs outside the stadium say no guns allowed.
But whether he was breaking the law depends on what lawmakers meant when they decided K-12 schools could ban concealed carry guns from "buildings" but not "grounds".
"If you look at the Kansas statutes that would apply to that they talk about specifically about buildings or structures," said Church. "And the definition does not define exactly what is a building."
Does a football stadium count? Concealed carry instructors tell Eyewitness News they don't think so because the stadium is open air.
The KASB says the answer needs to come from one of two places.
"Clarification in the law through the legislature where they would define more clearly as to what would include a building. The other thing would be possibly an attorney general's opinion," Church said.
In the meantime, it has told districts to err on the side of caution.
"Our advice has been when in doubt, post the sign," she added. "And then at least everyone knows what the intent is."
Parents say the law needs to be clarified.
A sign on the edge of the Heights High property in Wichita says the school is a "gun free zone." But for people with a concealed carry permit - what's allowed, gets confusing.
"No gun" signs are plastered on the doors of Heights High School, and carrying a firearm inside, is against the law.
Some parents think whether inside or outside, guns should be banned on school grounds.
"You have adults come on property, they can pull a gun. So I think it should be not allowed," said Natasha Walker, a Heights High parent.
Despite a sign banning guns on the parking lot, the law specifically allows people with a Kansas concealed carry permit to have their firearm in the parking lot.
There's also a "no guns" sign on the gates to the football field. What's legal inside the fence is hazy.
Parents and students think that needs to change.
"It needs to be very clear," Walker said.
"I think the law needs to be clarified as well. They need to be very specific, to make sure people understand," said Sam Gleason, a Heights student.
Other parents say the law should be clarified, but support allowing guns on school property.
"Anyone who has conceal and carry who's had the proper training and background check, that would make me feel safer - knowing that someone who is trained has that and is in the stadium," said Lisa Williams, another Wichita parent.
One Wichita defense attorney says it doesn't matter what the law means, because even if taking the gun inside the football stadium is illegal there's no real penalty built into the law.
"Whether it's a school building, a school stadium, or school grounds it doesn't make any difference to this issue," said Dan Monnat, defense attorney. "The person it appears cannot be criminally prosecuted under either state or federal law for carrying a firearm on school premises."
Church agrees saying schools really only have on option when that happens.
"Even if somebody does carry a gun where they're not supposed to, even with the signs posted, all we can do is ask them to leave," she said.
We asked the attorney general's office is a football stadium a building? In an emailed response, the office said, "Because our office provides legal representation to the state and its agencies, we cannot provide counsel, legal advice or research to private citizens, businesses or groups."