When the Legislature decided in 2006 to allow people to carry a concealed handgun, it was with the stipulation that property owners could decide whether to allow guns on their property. Now lawmakers have reneged on that promise when it comes to city and county governments and public universities.
A law passed this session requires cities and counties, beginning July 1, to allow concealed guns in any of their buildings that do not have “adequate security measures,” such as metal detectors. The high cost of providing this security means that local governments will have little choice but to allow guns in most of their buildings.
Cities and counties can get an exemption for six months, so they have a bit more time to get their security in place. They also can file a security plan with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office and seek a four-year exemption, similar to what lawmakers already granted public universities.
The Wichita City Council and Sedgwick County Commission are expected to vote this week to seek the six-month delay. Both bodies may also pursue the four-year exemption.
Cities and counties can’t get an exemption on whether their employees can carry guns at work. Per the new law, employees with permits can carry concealed guns in any city or county building that doesn’t have security measures, said Dale Goter, government-relations manager for the city. (School districts still have the choice of deciding whether to allow employees to carry guns in schools.)
Gun-rights advocates in the Legislature think the reason why local governments don’t want guns in their buildings is that they have an unfounded fear that there will be Wild West shootouts. Over time, advocates believe, local officials will realize that concealed-carry permit holders are very responsible.
If that is the case, why take away local control? Why not allow this change to happen naturally, as it has been in Wichita?
In 2011, Wichita and Sedgwick County reviewed their gun policies. The County Commission decided that it made sense to allow concealed carry in 80 of the county’s more than 100 buildings, and the City Council opened up 111 of 390 city buildings.
This was a thoughtful review that tried to balance gun rights with local security needs. In fact, the House and Senate conference committee cited this review as a model.
Cities and counties governments and public universities should be able to decide what is best for them – without lawmakers putting a gun to their heads.
For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee