Capilouto responds to proposed Kentucky bill that would allow guns on campus


The Kentucky State Capitol on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, in Frankfort, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff file photo

Laurel Swanz, Staff Reporter

UK president Eli Capilouto announced that he is opposed to House Bill 542, which would prevent Kentucky higher education institutions from banning guns on campus.

Sent via campus-wide email on March 7, Capilouto said UK officials are steadfast in their belief that passing the bill would make UK’s campus less safe. He is communicating with Kentucky General Assembly policymakers regarding this concern, according to the email.

House Bill 542 won approval from a legislative committee Tuesday morning and is now moving to the house for a floor vote, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.

Capilouto said that he will keep the campus community informed about his efforts to prevent the bill from making it any further.

“We are asking legislators to continue their longstanding support for Kentucky universities to be able to continue to make decisions about how best to ensure our faculty, students, staff, patients and visitors are safe and well,” Capilouto said in the email.

The bill is labeled as “AN ACT relating to workforce development” but was modified by a last-minute committee substitution to prohibit higher education institutions from preventing anyone 21 or older from carrying a firearm on campus, according to the Herald Leader.

It is a “shell bill,” which the Herald Leader defined as “when lawmakers file bills with seeming inconsequential content late in the session for the purpose of stripping them to put in something new at the last minute.”

Supporters of the bill argue that having guns on campus would allow citizens to exercise their second amendment rights and defend themselves in dangerous situations.

Sponsor of House Bill 542 Rep. Savannah Maddox said, “banning firearms on campus is clearly not a deterrent for those who would willingly harm others, yet it ensures that innocent victims are defenseless in the face of the unthinkable.”

According to a recent media release, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) disagrees.

“We are unaware of any reliable statistical evidence that shows that students, faculty and staff carrying guns reduces violence on college campuses,” CPE President Aaron Thompson said. “Campus facilities must remain safe havens for students to focus on learning and the college experience, and any legislation that allows concealed weapons on campuses threatens students real and perceived safety.”