A Wichita State University professor is resigning over a Kansas campus open-carry law that is set to take effect this summer.
“Clear, open, critical discussion cannot take place in an environment of threat and fear,” Deborah Ballard-Reisch wrote in a letter to University President John Bardo. “Guns on campus will make it that much more difficult for them to feel safe,” she wrote.
“As someone who has experienced gun violence personally, I do not feel safe with guns in the classroom.” Ballard-Reisch was robbed at gunpoint in 2014.
In 2013, Kansas passed a law permitting people to bring guns into public buildings, with a four-year extension for universities and community colleges to comply. The law on campuses takes effect on July 1. Two years later, Kansas eliminated a requirement for gun owners to obtain a permit by paying a licensing fee and completing an eight-hour training course.
“I’ve heard several legislators say this isn’t a big deal, that nobody cared and nobody was going to quit over this,” Ballard-Reisch, a tenured communications professor who taught at WSU for a decade, said. “And I thought, ‘No, I really am.’”
Ballard-Reisch added, “They may not care, but I think other people in this state who hold beliefs similar to mine will take some solace from the reality that somebody stood up and said, ‘No, I’m not working in this environment. …This is not OK.’”
Ballard-Reisch isn’t the only Kansas academic expressing outrage over the gun law. The University of Kansas’ Jacob Dorman resigned last month and, like Ballard-Reisch, publicly shared his letter with the announcement.
“Kansas can have great universities, or it can have concealed carry in classrooms, but it cannot have both. In practical terms, concealed carry has proven to be a failure,” Dorman wrote. “Students need to be able to express themselves respectfully and freely, and they cannot do so about heated topics if they know that fellow students are armed and that an argument could easily be lethal. Guns in the classroom will have a chilling effect on free speech and hinder the university’s mission to facilitate dialogue across lines of division.”
He added, “That stifling of dialogue will hurt all students, including the ones with guns in their pockets.”
Similarly, Ballard-Reisch wrote, “This gun policy is indication of a political context that threatens the health of all Kansans.”