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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Eagle editorial: Gun-law change unlikely


Four words for Vice Mayor Janet Miller, City Council member Jeff Longwell and others eager to do something about being forced by state law to allow open-carry of firearms in Wichita: Good luck with that.

Like Congress, the Kansas Legislature is a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Rifle Association. It’s impossible to imagine Wichita, even if it were joined by other cities and constituencies, getting very far at the Statehouse with any effort to curtail gun rights, no matter how seemingly sensible.

Nor does it seem a wise idea to flout an opinion issued late last year by Attorney General Derek Schmidt advising that “a city may not completely prohibit the open-carry of a loaded firearm on one’s person, or in the immediate control of a person, while on property open to the public.” It would be asking for legal trouble, as Longwell suggested to The Eagle, to “be out of compliance and be more restrictive, which I believe we can be.”

Plus, open-carry remains barred at City Hall, the Sedgwick County Courthouse and various detention facilities. The city can regulate that a firearm be holstered with the safety engaged, and be in control of the individual carrying it.

And businesses can prohibit unconcealed or concealed firearms if they post signage accordingly.

Still, open-carry raises some concerns.

Those who are concealed-carry permit holders under the 2006 Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act have been through an eight-hour weapons safety and training course. But in the case of open-carry, as one local gun-shop manager put it to The Eagle: “No training whatsoever. Buy a gun, buy a holster, out the door without any experience. It’s a big mistake.”

And lawfully unconcealed firearms could confuse and endanger law enforcement. As Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz observed, officers coming upon the scene of a disturbance “don’t know who’s the good or bad guy. Yet they’re facing split-second decisions. It’s a recipe that is going to be extremely challenging for law enforcement.”

But state Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, surely is correct that lawful open-carry won’t turn Wichita into Tombstone, just as lawful concealed-carry hasn’t over the past five years.

Most law-abiding gun owners are unlikely to feel a need to showcase their exercise of their Second Amendment right. And people who are armed unlawfully are unlikely to want to advertise that fact.

Wichitans also can take some comfort in the lack of apparent problems related to lawful open-carry elsewhere in the state. And the political climate in Kansas, even post-Aurora, is such that any city asking for more power to control guns could prompt the Legislature to further curtail local governments’ rights to say where guns are and aren’t welcome.

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

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