A $73,000 gun locker at the Sedgwick County Courthouse has been used 62 times in the last six months, primarily by a pair of lawyers who regularly check their weapons when they go to court, county officials said this week.
The light usage of the gun locker was reported at a county staff meeting under questioning from County Commission Chairman David Unruh, the only commissioner who voted against the plan when it was approved in March.
Although he didn’t follow up during the meeting, Unruh said later that he felt the lack of use was worth mentioning.
“We invested that money so two attorneys who frequent the courthouse can carry their gun,” Unruh said. “That’s what it kind of amounts to.”
County Manager Michael Scholes told the commission the lockers were used 18 times last month.
“There are two lawyers that have, since we opened it, continuously used it,” Scholes said. “They are the main users of the gun lockers, and the 18 times was their use.”
The lockers actually were used 16 times in November, because two uses on Dec. 1 had inadvertently been counted in with the November statistics, Courthouse Police Chief Darrell Haynes said.
Commissioner Jim Howell, who came up with the idea for gun lockers, said he sees it as a matter of principle.
“People have a right to be protected, or to protect themselves,” he said.
Before gun lockers, “We put them in this awkward position when they have to do business in our building, they’ve got to either leave their gun in their car or leave it at home or whatever,” Howell said. “And so they’re vulnerable and no way to protect themselves between their point of departure or their vehicle and our building.”
Howell said the light use is more a result of a cumbersome process to check in a firearm. To use the lockers, a person has to flag down an officer, get him or her to help lock up the gun, and then get a claim check to retrieve it later.
The courthouse police don’t identify the locker users so there’s no way to say exactly how many different people have used them. But Haynes said he’d estimate about two-thirds of the 62 total uses are by the two attorneys Scholes mentioned.
Unruh said he thinks the locker is unnecessary and that’s why he opposed setting it up in the first place.
“If we’re spending money on something that’s somewhat superfluous and not used by the general public, you might think that this was wasteful,” he said.
The county already owned the gun locker when the project started.
But in the interest of safety in case of accidental discharges, they built a glass bullet shield around it in the northeast corner of the courthouse lobby.
The enclosure accounted for about $63,000 of the $73,000 cost.
Howell said the locker project cost way more than it needed to.
“The majority of the money that was spent on the gun lockers was not for gun lockers, but was for architectural (costs), to make it blend into the old building that we have,” he said.
Because a courthouse police officer has to assist people when they lock up their guns, the department has added an entry-level officer who works part time on lobby duty, Haynes said.
Howell said he had envisioned self-service lockers with observation windows, so security could easily check to make sure they were only used to store firearms.
That would have cost far less and wouldn’t have burdened courthouse police, he said.
County gun locker use
Gun locker use at the Sedgwick County Courthouse, as reported by courthouse police.
Gun locker uses
June (partial month)
Source: Sedgwick County Courthouse Police