Wichita to explore options on open-carry gun law

07/31/2012 5:00 AM

08/01/2012 6:24 AM

The Wichita City Council appears primed to take another look at a new ordinance that allows people to openly carry guns in the city.

The city is considering lobbying the 2013 Kansas Legislature to allow cities to place more restrictions than the state on open carry.

Six of seven council members say they favor a “re-examination of our options” in the wake of growing public concern over Wichita’s new ordinance allowing people to carry firearms in plain sight without a permit. Council members say that at minimum, they want the right to require permits and training for open carry in Wichita.

Council member Michael O’Donnell, a gun proponent, could not be reached for comment.

Open carry became law in Wichita last week after city officials discovered that the city’s prohibition against it was illegally more restrictive than a 2007 state law permitting open carry.

Council members do not appear to favor restoring the city’s prohibition against open carry, which would put them out of compliance with state law. And there’s little or no interest in any move that could be perceived as an attack on the Second Amendment, including revisiting the already-approved city concealed-carry law.

What should happen, Mayor Carl Brewer said, is a debate over whether open carry should go on the city’s 2013 legislative agenda, empowering governmental relations manager Dale Goter to lobby legislators to allow cities to place more restrictions on carrying firearms openly.

The reason? The public is up in arms over the new open-carry law, the mayor and several council members said.

“It came in so suddenly and went in so quietly, but it’s got the community’s attention now,” council member Lavonta Williams said. “There’s some angst in the community. We want the community to know we’re looking at this, and it can come back at a later date, but we have to have a plan.”

The council’s hands are tied right now by state law, Brewer said.

“I’ve been dealing with guns since I was taught to shoot at 10, and if I see anyone carrying a weapon who’s not a law enforcement officer, the hair on my neck is going to rise,” Brewer said. “If I see it in a shop, I’d turn around and walk out. I’m not going to shop there. You just don’t know.”

While people have to have a permit and training to carry a concealed weapon, there is no permit required to openly display a weapon.

In order to carry openly, however, the city said that the firearm’s safety must be on and the weapon must be holstered. Loaded firearms cannot be transported in a vehicle.

Council members Jeff Longwell and Pete Meitzner say they’re comfortable with the city’s concealed-carry stance, and have no interest in revisiting it. Both voted in December to allow residents to carry concealed weapons into 111 city-owned properties. The vote was 4-3. The council voted 6-0 July 10 in favor of the open-carry ordinance after Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt ruled the city cannot have a more restrictive open-carry ordinance than current state law.

“The state’s attorney general is telling us we have to comply,” Meitzner said. “I’m not interested in challenging that and getting wrapped into a court case.

“I think the citizens who are concerned need to contact their state representatives who passed this in the first place.”

Council member James Clendenin, who supported allowing concealed carry inside some city properties, also favors another look at the open-carry ordinance.

“I was under the impression that we had no options, that something had to be done to mirror the state law,” he said. “I think we need to find out what our options are, make sure there aren’t some things we can do to restore some public confidence.”

Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz told The Eagle last week that concealed carry has posed no real issues for police, but the uncertainty created by any public proliferation of openly carried guns would heighten tensions in any confrontations.

Williams wants city authority to require training and permits for openly carried weapons, similar to the current concealed-carry law.

“Some training, some type of responsibility for carrying a gun is essential,” she said. “With the law we have now, that’s not a possibility.”

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