Eagle editorial: No thanks for gun law

As if local governments didn’t have enough to do this summer, they also must deal with the Legislature’s meddling, unfunded mandate meant to expand concealed-carry of firearms in the state.

During the legislative debate, lawmakers seemed mostly indifferent to the real-world costs and consequences of the legislation, which requires counties, cities and other public entities to allow concealed guns in any of their buildings that do not have “adequate security measures.” The final version passed the House and Senate with 104-16 and 32-7 votes, respectively, before Gov. Sam Brownback signed it April 16. It went into effect this month.

Indeed, the proponents’ goal seemed simple: to make it too expensive and burdensome for local governments to continue to keep concealed guns out.

But the mandate is not playing well among the policymakers and facility directors directly responsible for public safety. More than 400 cities, counties, libraries, hospitals and other organizations have applied for the six-month exemption, according to records obtained by the Lawrence Journal-World. The bill also allows for a four-year exemption, if locals file a security plan with the Attorney General’s Office. Public universities, colleges, community mental health centers and public health care facilities are entitled for a four-year exemption right away.

For public K-12 schools, the question has been whether to allow concealed-carry permit holders on staff to bring firearms to work.

And news reports from around the state find counties, cities and public facilities doing the depressing math: Adding security at one door of the Finney County Courthouse will cost $180,000. Neosho County is looking at more than $50,000 to hire private security. For the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, it would mean nearly $100,000 for renovations and metal detectors, and perhaps another $150,000 a year for added security.

“As we are a small, rural medical care facility with limited funds, we cannot afford to employ either a security company or additional staff nor purchase expensive metal detection equipment,” wrote the chairman of the board of Mankato’s Jewell County Hospital in its exemption request.

For school districts, the consequences may include insurance problems. EMC Insurance Companies, the liability coverage provider for 90 percent of the state’s schools, has said it won’t cover districts that let employees carry concealed guns.

“What will happen is the market will take care of this. Other companies are going to do the dollars and cents,” state Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, told the New York Times.

Perhaps. But the Legislature should have spared the school districts and other local entities all the trouble and respected local control, instead of dictating from the gun-free Statehouse that more local buildings across the state welcome guns.

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman