UK opposes allowing guns in cars

A bill under consideration by the state legislature that would allow guns to be kept in cars on college campuses is gaining opposition from legislators and educators across the state, including at UK.

Another Kentucky law allows state citizens to keep a gun in their car, but it does not apply at colleges and universities, which are allowed to set their own firearm policies.

The university currently bans firearms on campus, and President Lee Todd said he hopes it will continue this way.

“We believe that policy best serves the safety of our students and employees,” said UK spokesman Jay Blanton in an e-mail. “We would hope that the members of the Kentucky General Assembly recognize that the university administration and Board of Trustees are rightfully suited to manage and set policy that is in the best interest of the campus.”

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, would change the Kentucky law that allows individual state colleges and universities to ban firearms on campus.

While House Bill 114 has more than 50 co-sponsors, it will likely not leave the judiciary committee because Chairwoman Rep. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, is opposed to it.

“The bill just isn’t specific enough,” Stein said. “It leaves too much up for interpretation — things that should be left up to the universities to decide. Meddling in the affairs of the universities is not high on this committee’s list of priority issues.”

Stein said she doesn’t plan to call the legislation for a committee vote.

Damron said he doesn’t understand Stein and other house members’ strong opposition to the bill because it’s “no big deal.”

“I only want to allow responsible gun owners to keep their weapons in their cars when they drive to work or school,” he said.

If the bill were to become law, it would allow people to keep concealed guns in their cars while parked on campus and on other university property, including stadiums, arenas and hospitals, Damron said. The gun owners could remove the guns to defend themselves if threatened.

Student Government President Nick Phelps doesn’t think there is a need to have guns on UK’s campus.

“I’ve heard no complaints, no upset people over not being allowed to have guns on campus,” Phelps said. “So when it comes to a question of need, I just don’t see the need for allowing it.”

Damron said he didn’t expect this much opposition for the bill when he introduced it at the beginning of the 2008 legislative session. If Stein refuses to hear it, HB 114 will die in the committee and Damron would have to get the bill sent to another committee or get at least 25 lawmakers to sign a discharge petition for the bill to have a chance to be voted on by the House.

He said he’s hoping to gain that support when a representative from the National Rifle Association comes to Frankfort to lobby for the bill. Damron said he may try to force a vote on the House floor after that.

“This legislation is important, and it deserves a vote,” he said.