DA: Allowing guns in some county facilities 'does not serve the public interest'

A proposal to let people carry concealed weapons into many county facilities works against public safety, District Attorney Nola Foulston said Wednesday.

"I don't see any good reason to jeopardize public safety for a small group of people who can otherwise enjoy their liberty to carry a concealed weapon," she said.

County commissioners are scheduled to vote Wednesday on Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau's proposal to allow people with concealed-carry permits to take their guns inside a majority of locations where the county does business.

No guns are allowed now in any county facility.

Ranzau said Foulston's opinion was subjective and not based on objective evidence that people would be less safe.

"I don't believe that is factually correct," said Ranzau, who has a concealed-carry permit.

In a three-page letter that Foulston sent Wednesday to county commissioners and department heads, she said concealed carry in county facilities "does not serve the public interest" and shouldn't be allowed.

The letter also said, "The simplest and most basic reason this proposal should not be adopted is that it does not advance public safety and welfare; it jeopardizes it. That interest is far more significant than the interest of individual citizens in availing themselves of the ability to carry a secreted firearm in government facilities while there for limited periods of time."

The county owns or leases 83 locations where the public conducts business. Concealed-carry weapons would be allowed at 45 of those, including the 10 fire stations, three EMS facilities, four tag offices, the Kansas Pavilions, the Extension Education Center, the Historic Courthouse and the Kansas African American Museum.

"Have you ever been to the tag office on a good day? Tempers can flare," Foulston said. "Does the fire department and EMS need to be troubled by people coming up (with their concealed weapons)?"

Ranzau sought the change, contending that the county had arbitrarily closed all its buildings to guns when concealed-carry permits were first allowed five years ago. He said that denied a fundamental right for those who have a permit.

Foulston said her letter was in response to Ranzau asking her opinion; he first contacted her about the issue months ago.

"I didn't just blow this up out of nowhere," she said.

Foulston said she hasn't done a survey on the subject, but added, "It's really basic" that guns shouldn't be allowed in any government facilities.

"Unfortunately, I think where people gather, and specifically in great distress, we've had all kinds of problems, especially in domestic areas," Foulston said. "To bring in a weapon ... it doesn't bode well for public safety."

She noted that the training a person receives before obtaining a concealed-carry license doesn't include learning how to keep someone from taking that gun away.

Ranzau said Foulston's objections are the same ones that were raised when the concealed carry law was debated in 2006.

"People made the argument that it wouldn't be safe, that there would be shoot-outs and we'd have the wild, wild West," he aid. "That was based on feelings and emotions, and that was incorrect.

"I expect over time that these subjective opinions, which the district attorney has, will be proven to be incorrect."

Under his proposal, the county would continue to prohibit weapons at the courthouse, jail and other law enforcement facilities; Intrust Bank Arena; the Health Department; and Comcare, a community mental health facility, among other offices.

Weapons also would continue to be prohibited at the National Center for Aviation Training, Exploration Place and the Sedgwick County Zoo, all of which are operated by other entities.

Ranzau said he thinks the chances of getting the proposal passed are good.

"We'll address the facts," he said.

More than 35,000 concealed-carry permits have been issued statewide, including 7,106 to Sedgwick County residents as of Aug. 1, according to the state Attorney General's Office.

"Truly we're talking about a very small percentage of the population," Foulston said. "It's not asking too much from them not to carry their guns into government facilities."

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