Nobody should be surprised if the Sedgwick County Commission overrules District Attorney Nola Foulston and allows concealed guns at some of the 83 buildings the county owns or leases, or if other Kansas counties follow its lead. Commissioners need to be choosy about where firearms do and don’t belong, though, better accommodating citizens’ gun rights without compromising public safety.
At the request of Commissioner Richard Ranzau, county staff has drawn up a list of 45 county sites that might newly allow concealed-carry permit holders to bring in their guns. The commission is expected to consider the list at Wednesday’s meeting.
Fears that passage of a Kansas concealed-carry law would lead to shootouts and vigilantism have all but fizzled, however. Five years later, the state’s more than 35,000 permit holders pretty much keep their guns concealed and to themselves. The only sign of the state law for many people is the no-gun sign posted at entrances to public buildings and some businesses.
So when Ranzau and others among Sedgwick County’s 7,106 permit holders complain about the county’s blanket ban on guns in its buildings, they have a point.
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“We should have a reason for placing each one off-limits,” Ranzau has said.
But this is about more than what the Second Amendment says and gun owners prefer. Because permit holders cannot guarantee their guns won’t be taken from them and used to threaten or harm others, commissioners have to account for that possibility.
That’s why it was a relief to see Comcare’s mental health facilities absent from the list of places where guns might be newly allowed. Including 13 Comcare facilities among the sites to consider for concealed-carry, as Ranzau did, was a bad idea.
Commissioners probably should heed Foulston’s caution about the tag offices, which don’t tend to be the happiest places on Earth. The proposal to welcome guns at the Kansas African American Museum, the Lake Afton Observatory and the Extension Education Center also needs scrutiny , if for no other reason than it will mean policy is inconsistent among county-related attractions and educational sites.
Other locations wouldn’t pose obvious problems, though, including the Kansas Pavilions (where gun shows are held), public works yards and law enforcement training facilities.
Commissioners also should be aware that allowing guns would go against not only Foulston but public opinion: 67 percent of Sedgwick County residents who participated in a recent SurveyUSA poll for KWCH, Channel 12, said people with concealed-carry permits should not be allowed to carry weapons into county buildings.
But given the state’s five-year experience with concealed-carry, it makes sense for local governments’ approach to be site-specific, with a clearly articulated policy that restricts permit holders’ rights only when necessary rather than across the board.