Wichita municipal court judge issues order to keep knives out of City Hall

06/16/2014 4:48 PM

06/16/2014 4:49 PM

If you’re headed to Wichita’s City Hall, leave your knife at home. Or at least don’t take it into the building.

A municipal court judge used her authority over courtrooms and issued an order Monday that will continue to keep any kind of knife out of City Hall.

A state law set to take effect July 1 would have allowed knives in the building.

The order was issued to “preserve the safety and security of citizens and staff,” Municipal Court Administrative Judge Jennifer Jones said in a statement.

City Council member Janet Miller said, “I’m pleased she used the power assigned.”

Jones’ order “does nothing more than keep in place current security for City Hall,” said Sharon Dickgrafe, the city’s chief deputy attorney.

Knives will remain on the list of banned items detailed in 11 different classifications – ranging from firearms and fireworks to stun guns and crossbows.

A new state law passed by the Legislature earlier this year would have allowed knives in City Hall if Jones had not intervened.

House Bill 2578 says municipalities can’t keep knives out of their public buildings, Dickgrafe said. That will still be true for all of Wichita’s other public buildings, she added.

But City Hall is excluded because there are municipal court services and courtrooms on the building’s second and third floors, respectively. State law gives courts judicial authority over their courtrooms, Dickgrafe said.

And because security screening at City Hall is on the ground floor, people won’t be allowed to take knives anywhere in the building, she said.

In issuing her order, Jones noted that two sets of elevators and stairways allow access to the second and third floors. Supplemental screening on the third floor wouldn’t be sufficient, she wrote.

“Allowing knives and other weapons into City Hall will subject litigants, witnesses, victims, defense attorneys, prosecutors and municipal court staff to unreasonable and unacceptable risk of harm,” Jones wrote.

Last week, the City Council voted to strike down its ordinances involving firearms so the city would be in compliance with the new state law.

A year ago, the council had repealed its ordinances on knives so the city would be in line with 2013 state law. That law was tweaked in 2014 under HB 2578 in order to make it clear that it included existing municipal laws.

Sedgwick County didn’t have to take any steps to ensure knives will continue to be banned from its courtrooms because the state law pertains only to municipalities.

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