By: José Niño
On March 7, 2023, campus carry advanced out of a morning House committee meeting. House Bill 542, which State Representative Savannah Maddox sponsored, would prohibit colleges, universities, and any other “postsecondary education facility” from banning or restricting people from carrying concealed firearms on campuses.
According to a report by the Kentucky Lantern, colleges and universities can still ban or restrict individuals from carrying firearms on their respective facilities. All public universities in Kentucky and the state’s community and technical college system ban concealed-carry firearms on campus. Only concealed-carry permit holders who keep a firearm locked in their personal vehicles are exempt from these restrictions.
National Rifle Association lobbyist Art Thomm testified in support of the legislation, whereas organizations representing colleges and universities across the state naturally voiced their opposition to Maddox’s legislation. During the testimony, Thomm declared that HB 542 “seeks to empower men and women to protect themselves from violent attacks.”
“Throughout the movement of this legislation, you will hear a tirade of scenarios — how crime will increase, how safety will diminish and how our children will be placed at risk and so on. Blood will run through the streets at our state colleges and universities. There’s one major problem with that thought process — it’s wrong,” Thomm added.
If Kentucky passes HB 542, it will become the 13th state in the nation to adopt campus carry. The 12 other states with campus carry on the books are: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. West Virginia was the most recent state to pass campus carry after Governor Jim Justice signed this bill into law on March 1.
On top of her campus carry legislation, Maddox filed another bill in the current session of the Kentucky General Assembly that would do away with concealed-carry prohibitions or restrictions present at elementary and secondary schools. Students would obviously still be banned from carrying firearms in these institutions per the language in Maddox’s bill. Maddox was first elected in 2018 and has been one of the most zealous advocates for gun rights in the Kentucky General Assembly.
Since passing constitutional carry — the concept that any lawful individual can carry a firearm without having to possess a permit — in 2019, Kentucky has been moving in a pro-gun direction. According to Guns & Ammo magazine’s recent rankings for the best states for gun owners, Kentucky is ranked in 14th place.
By passing campus carry, Kentucky will only boost its pro-gun profile among other states.