Wichita City Council members and Sedgwick County commissioners face a similar decision this week: Should they seek a six-month exemption from a state law that allows permit holders to carry handguns in public buildings?
A state law beginning July 1 allows concealed carry permit holders to take handguns into buildings including courthouses, police stations and libraries across the state. City and county governments can prohibit concealed carry in certain buildings as long as “adequate security measures,” as defined by the state law, are in place.
Tuesday, council members will vote on whether to ask the Kansas attorney general to exempt Wichita municipal buildings from the new law for six months. County commissioners will consider whether to seek a similar delay for county-owned buildings on Wednesday.
Other communities, including Shawnee and Reno counties, have already decided to ask to delay the law’s implementation.
Dale Goter, government relations manager for the city, said Wichita could seek a four-year exemption from the law once the six-month delay is up in Jan. 1, 2014. Kristi Zukovich, Sedgwick County spokeswoman, said the commissioners do not know whether they will seek the longer exemption. The state law requires that city and county governments that want to exempt certain buildings from the new law until 2017 must submit security plans to the state. The purpose of the six-month exemption is to give municipalities time to determine how they will adequately secure any buildings in which permit holders are not allowed to carry a handgun.
The city’s early estimate is that adequately securing facilities would cost approximately $1 million for equipment plus $14.5 million a year for security personnel. The estimated cost is for all city facilities where concealed weapons are now prohibited.
The county said it has not made any similar cost estimates.
In 2011, both city and county governments decided to allow people with concealed carry permits to take handguns into some public buildings. Sedgwick County commissioners voted in August of that year to allow concealed carry in 80 of its more than 100 buildings. Four months later, the City Council voted to allow concealed carry in 111 of 390 city-owned buildings. Before these decisions, all public buildings were off-limits to concealed handguns.
Council members also will vote Tuesday on two additional resolutions related to new weapons laws passed by the state Legislature. One ordinance would legalize the discharge of a firearm in self-defense. Another ordinance would legalize carrying knives that were previously prohibited under city laws. Goter said the council is taking action on both ordinances in order to bring city laws in line with the new state laws.