An anti-campus carry activist is raising money online to pay for Kansas Board of Regents documents outlining communications a staff member had with a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association while the board developed its policy to implement a state law requiring that colleges and universities allow concealed guns on campus.
Megan Jones, a graduate student at the University of Kansas, has been an outspoken opponent of the state’s controversial concealed carry law that went into effect on college and university campuses on July 1. She said the money raised will pay for a Kansas Open Records Act request she filed with the board because she wants to see what kind of conversations the group had with the NRA while it was developing its overarching guns policy.
“The public needs to know when the gun lobby is influencing their gun policies,” Jones said.
Jones said she requested all documentation of any conversations between NRA lobbyist Travis Couture-Lovelady — a former state representative — and the Board of Regents’ director of government relations, Matt Casey, after an initial request she filed revealed that the two had spoken about the board policy.
“I just want to get a sense for what more is there,” Jones said.
Kansas Board of Regents spokeswoman Breeze Richardson said, however, that the board had turned over the documents its staff members knew of for free. She said Jones’ request would require staff members to scour records looking for any other communications between the two.
“It is not our belief that that will produce any additional documents,” Richardson said.
The bill for the search will come to $3,203.21, according to Jones’ GoFundMe page. Jones has raised about $1,000 in less than two weeks.
The Kansas Board of Regents governs seven universities and 25 community and technical colleges.
Jones said her concern over the NRA’s lobbying began in March during a legislative hearing on a bill that would have prevented universities and the board from developing any policy concerning how and where guns are carried on campus. At that meeting, Couture-Lovelady said the board had been great to work with and that members of its staff had sat down and worked with the NRA on the policy.
“I don’t think they consult tobacco companies about the campus smoking policy,” Jones said.
Jones said she found the idea that the board was consulting the NRA on its policy “a little bit disturbing.”
“It concerns me that they would have that much input into our concealed carry on campus policy,” Jones said.
Richardson said Couture-Lovelady and Casey had met just once and that the board’s president and CEO, Blake Flanders, had also attended. Richardson said the board’s policy did not change in response to the NRA’s concerns. In documents released by the board, Couture-Lovelady had raised concerns about a number of provisions in the board’s policy that still stand.
Then-board chair Zoe Newton also testified against the bill lawmakers heard in March and said universities should have say in how they govern weapons on campus.
“The NRA not only tried to lobby the board to make these changes unsuccessfully,” Richardson said. “They introduced state law to prohibit the board from passing policy and failed.”
Richardson said the NRA’s concerns were discussed but not entertained. She said the board’s governance committee did ask the University of Kansas to bring one pillar of its policy in line with other universities. The university’s policy would have required that gun owners who carry their weapons in backpacks keep that bag on their person or in their hands at all times. The revised policy requires that a gun owner keep the gun in their “control and custody.”
Couture-Lovelady had taken issue with that policy provision and several universities’ requirements that guns be carried without a round of ammunition in the chamber. Six universities require that guns be carried that way and have not changed their policies, Richardson said in an email.
Jones contends that the board’s policy is still too loose. She also said she thought students were not aware of board and university policies regarding campus carry.
Richardson said she thought universities had done an effective job communicating about the new law. She said more communication might be required over the fall semester on some issues, such as how students should plan for days their class might be in a lab where they would not be able to properly control their firearm.
The NRA declined to comment for this story.