Eagle editorial: No local say on guns

12/13/2013 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:20 AM

The new state law requiring cities, counties and other public entities to choose between providing costly “adequate security” or allowing concealed-carry of firearms in their buildings is prompting the Wichita City Council and other governing bodies to throw up their hands and welcome the guns. No surprise there.

Wichita could have asked to exempt more sites for the next four years, as some other cities around the state are doing. One argument for waiting could be found in the 55 percent of Kansans polled by the 2013 Kansas Speaks survey, conducted by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University, who said they opposed allowing concealed-carry of guns in schools, hospitals and government buildings.

But four years from now the “adequate security measures” – metal detectors and other electronic equipment and security personnel at public entrances – will be no less cost-prohibitive. Nor is there much prospect of a political wind shift in Topeka and a rethinking of the law.

So it may be just as well, given liability concerns, that the City Council got it over with and voted 4-2 this week to allow concealed-carry in all but 16 of 107 city-owned buildings as of Jan. 1, including the public libraries, recreation centers, the Wichita Art Museum and CityArts. The Sedgwick County Commission recently made a similar move, newly allowing guns at six Comcare mental health agency buildings as well as other county sites that lack security screening. Though public universities and colleges have an automatic four-year exemption, the Kansas Board of Regents may reach the same conclusion. Guns are even OK at many polling places, as of a recent opinion by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

Concealed-carry expansion was the legislation’s desired effect, after all, serving the belief that people should be entitled to exercise their Second Amendment rights to keep and carry firearms wherever they choose to be. Proponents were largely unmoved by arguments that the mandate would be burdensome and confusing for local governments, offering the worthy point that “no-gun” signs only deter the law-abiding firearms owner.

And the day-to-day impact of expanded concealed-carry may be as negligible as that of the 2006 Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act itself. Though Kansas has issued more than 73,000 concealed-carry licenses, the reality hasn’t matched the warnings about Kansas reviving the Wild West shoot-out.

Still, the 2013 legislation makes a joke of local control – and makes one wonder what might have happened if Kansans had known seven years ago that automatic exemptions for public buildings would be slowly chipped away.

“This is a vote about freedom,” then-state Sen. Phil Journey, now a Sedgwick County District Court judge, said in 2006 of his concealed-carry bill.

Turns out it was also a vote about forcing other government entities to eventually allow firearms in libraries, mental health clinics, polling places and many other places once considered ill-suited for them.

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

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