One winter night in 1986 in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, a man walked into a city council meeting and shot three council members, leaving the mayor dead and the others seriously wounded.
The best chance to minimize the damage was the police chief, who for some inexplicable reason attended the meeting without his firearm — something the gunman couldn't have known.
So, could an audience member or other city official armed with a gun have made a difference? It's highly unlikely. The shootings took just moments, giving those under attack no time to respond.
That night came to mind after hearing of a recent proposal in Kansas to loosen state law that allows people to carry concealed handguns.
Under the measure approved 65-57 by the Kansas House and sent to the Senate, cities, counties and the state wouldn't be able to prohibit guns in municipal buildings and on college campuses unless those facilities had adequate security measures to ensure that no weapons could be present.
The flawed logic holds that if a criminal brandishes a weapon in an unsecured municipal building, private citizens with guns could defend themselves — when that more likely would make a bad situation worse.
Encouraging people to pack heat in a courthouse, city hall or other public building where emotions can run high is a disturbing proposition. Governments and colleges hoping to avoid such a predicament and stay gun-free would have to implement new security measures when they're already short on funds.
Imagine Garden City Community College trying to install a security fence around the campus, and metal detectors at every building entrance. It would be practically impossible, as proponents of the proposed legislation know.
With that in mind, give credit to Jeff Whitham, R-Garden City, and Don Hineman, R-Dighton, for voting against the troubling pitch to loosen current concealed-carry law. Unfortunately, Larry Powell, R-Garden City; Gary Hayzlett, R-Lakin; Bill Light, R-Rolla; and Pat George, R-Dodge City, voted in favor. Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, didn't vote.
Concealed-carry advocates argue the laws deter criminal activity. But apparently not in Garden City, where violent crime has been on the rise since Kansas in 2006 approved its concealed-carry law.
Criminals don't care about such policies. Many commit crimes because they are desperate or disturbed. Time would be better spent getting to the root of those problems and preventing criminal activity than on encouraging private citizens to fire back.
Still, we know that many law-abiding, well-intentioned citizens feel better with a weapon for personal protection. More than 22,000 Kansans have taken advantage by securing permits.
The problem is that carrying a gun can bring a false sense of security and risk that may outweigh any possible level of protection.
According to the Violence Policy Center, since May 2007 more than 150 people nationwide — including nine law enforcement officers — have been killed by people with concealed-carry permits. Road rage and domestic disputes were among the catalysts.
Unlike law enforcement and military personnel whose extensive firearms training teaches them when and how to use force or restraint, too many private citizens with guns don't have the proper training to respond to a crime or violent act.
More sensible legislation would focus on ways to improve concealed-carry policy by shoring up such shortcomings. Loosening a law with great potential for harm, on the other hand, makes no sense.
E-mail Editor-Publisher Dena Sattler at firstname.lastname@example.org.