Updated -- Thursday, Apr. 18 at 4:11 p.m.
After receiving initial approval in the Senate earlier this month, a house bill - which would prohibit any institution of higher education from banning concealed carry of weapons on campus - has been a topic for debate. However, it wasn’t until Thursday when lawmakers began debating another section surrounding student health fees.
House Bill 575 also includes a section that would eliminate required student health fees for students with existing health insurance.The bill’s sponsor, Senator Dean Dorhman, said the section on student fees was “drafted on the spot” and could “use some work.”
Senator Brian Williams expressed his concerns on the negative impact the bill could have on students who rely on their colleges’ health centers.
“I’m worried that it could potentially cause unintended consequence for students that don't have health insurance. But then also this behavior health piece, where there's been a very severe uprise in my opinion around mental health issues,” said WIlliams.
Williams said the bill would limit resources for counseling centers, which are already in high demand. According to an MU spokesperson, the MU Student Health Center receives 65% of its budget from student fees.
The bill drew passionate testimony from citizens across the state. Several individuals testified in opposition to the bill Thursday morning - bringing up issues including the increase of gun-related suicides and the added stress for students if guns were allowed on campus.
One Jefferson City resident expressed her opposition to the bill because of a family tragedy.
“My sister in law in 2002 was one of three professors that was killed by a gentleman,” she said. “He was a student failing classes, he went in to campus with five guns, 250 rounds of ammunition, and he shot all three professors point blank several times.”
Although the shooting occurred in Arizona, she said she feared something similar would happen on a college campus in Missouri.