There was a good case to be made for letting concealed-carry permit holders bring guns into certain city-owned facilities, rather than continue to ban them across the board. But the majority of Wichita City Council members voted Tuesday to allow handguns at 111 of 390 city sites without bothering to formally consult with citizens and make that case.
It may be obvious to council members Michael O’Donnell, James Clendenin, Jeff Longwell and Pete Meitzner that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to carry a handgun while playing a city golf course, strolling through a city park, watching a youth soccer game or visiting a fire station. As of Tuesday’s vote, Wichitans with concealed-carry permits can do just that at city sites.
But it’s less obvious to the public. A SurveyUSA poll — conducted last summer for KWCH, Channel 12, as the Sedgwick County Commission was about to make a similar policy change — should have persuaded City Council members of the need to slow down and let people be heard. In that poll, 67 percent of surveyed county residents said people with concealed-carry permits should not be allowed to carry weapons into county buildings.
The clear impression left by a tense council discussion of the issue at an Oct. 25 workshop was that four town-hall meetings would be held. That didn’t happen. And during Tuesday’s contentious debate leading to the council vote, proponents didn’t explain the rush, other than to claim the county’s vote had made it “a hot topic” for the city and to incorrectly suggest that the ban at all city-owned facilities conflicted with state law.
“I believe that our constituents also have a constitutional right to be heard,” said Vice Mayor Lavonta Williams. “And we’re trying to move this forward without their voice included, and I have a problem with that.”
That said, the nearly six years since the Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act passed the Legislature have been pretty unremarkable, without the predicted vigilantism and “High Noon” confrontations. More than 500 licenses have been variously surrendered, denied, suspended or revoked, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
But the vast majority of the more than 38,000 permit holders are responsible — not surprising, given that it takes eight hours in training and more than $200 to acquire the license. The facts don’t bear out the fears, including those voiced by council members on the losing side of Tuesday’s vote.
The council might have reached the same decision regarding the 111 city-owned sites now cleared for conceal-carry. But it should have informed the decision, especially after having signaled it would hold town-hall meetings before it acted.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman