The Wichita City Council split Tuesday over the city’s compliance with new state laws governing the possession of guns and knives.
The council voted 5-2, with council members Jeff Longwell and Jeff Blubaugh opposed, to seek from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt a six-month exemption to continue the prohibition of concealed-carry weapons in some public buildings.
And the council voted 5-2, with Mayor Carl Brewer and council member Lavonta Williams opposed, to approve a new ordinance essentially complying with the Legislature’s move to prohibit cities from regulating knives.
Losing local control over the public display of everything from switchblades to swords led Brewer to urge his colleagues to challenge what he sees as an errant legislature on the weapons issues.
“We hear that other large cities our size are going against them (legislatures) all the time. So I’m going to tell you I disagree with this,” he said.
Brewer also took issue with the city’s legal staff, which recommended complying with the knife law to avoid legal challenges and civil lawsuits.
“It’s obvious we have some issues in Topeka, to say the least,” Brewer said. “You say it’s going to cost us money, and there will be legal action. Well, you can’t be afraid. ... There are times you have to stand up and say you don’t think this is the right thing. Just because a state legislator thinks it’s the right thing doesn’t make it right.”
Longwell, on the other hand, wanted no part of bucking the state.
“I don’t know this is the time and place to draw a line in the sand and ask citizens to pay for lawsuits. We can take this debate up at another time,” he said.
The concealed-carry exemption will allow staff members to research how to comply with a four-year exemption that could prove expensive for Wichita taxpayers, Deputy City Attorney Sharon Dickgrafe said.
Under the new legislative action, the city would be required to provide security in all public buildings and locations where concealed-carry is prohibited, a similar setup to the detectors and police staffing at City Hall. That could cost $1 million for the equipment and an estimated $14.5 million annually for personnel, the city has estimated.
Currently, 175 city sites are closed to concealed-carry, including City Hall. Concealed-carry is allowed in 111 public places, including 82 parks and recreation sites, 19 fire department buildings, four public works and utilities buildings and five parking garages.
Public speakers were split on the issue.
James Roseboro of Wichita said he didn’t think it was necessary to have to carry a firearm into buildings such as City Hall or a courthouse.
“You want to feel safe when you go into areas like these,” Roseboro said. “I don’t see why you need to carry a weapon into these areas, and it’s also another expense to the city.
“I’d be a little more careful and attentive,” he said if the council were to approve the measure.
Craig Harms said concealed-carry holders have statistically committed no crimes.
“Criminals have a history of using guns without any type of training or licensing,” Harms said. “I think concealed-carry holders are law-abiding citizens, and the city’s current policy only hinders those concealed-carry holders.”
Contributing: Raymond Howze of The Eagle.