No. 6: Local entities seek concealed carry exemptions

12/26/2013

Editor's Note:This is the fifth in a series of stories featuring The Telegram's top 10 news stories for 2013.

Editor's Note:This is the fifth in a series of stories featuring The Telegram's top 10 news stories for 2013.

By KELTON BROOKS

kbrooks@gctelegram.com

The Kansas law allowing the carrying of concealed weapons in state and municipal buildings that took effect in July, comes in at No. 6 on The Telegram's list of top stories of 2013, as voted on by The Telegram staff.

According to the law, municipalities and state buildings could either take down signs banning guns and allow firearms in public buildings, or they could seek six-month or four-year exemptions to the law while establishing building security plans that would allow them to continue keeping concealed weapons out.

The law says state and local agencies can't ban concealed weapons unless their buildings have adequate security measures, such as metal detectors.

Wendel Wurst, chief judge of the 25th Judicial District, asked the Finney County Commission in late May to allow a six-month exemption at the courthouse from implementing the state law, which was granted.

In late June, all Garden City public buildings delayed implementing the law for at least six months while most Finney County facilities took down gun prohibition signs right away.

Other than the Finney County Courthouse, which continued to prohibit concealed weapons, most Finney County buildings began to allow people with concealed carry permits to bring their weapons inside.

In late July, the USD 457 Board of Education approved a policy prohibiting district employees with concealed-carry permits from bringing them onto school property or to school-sponsored events.

However, on Jan. 1, 2014, the 52 buildings and properties Garden City has put on the list to exempt will be lifted.

At the time, Finney County Commissioner Larry Jones said the county's decision to only exempt the courthouse primarily came down to cost.

The proposed budget would cost $180,000 more to put in security in the courthouse for this, for one door.

During a Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce event with local legislators in June, Jones said, "We're going to have to hire guards, put in a metal detector at the courthouse. We can't afford to do that at the (law enforcement center) and administration building, so we're just going to take the signs down," he said.

School districts are exempted from the requirements of municipal buildings and community colleges in that they aren't required to provide security plans and equipment such as metal detectors in lieu of allowing concealed-carry handguns.

In early June, the Holcomb City Council also delayed implementation of the concealed-carry law. Holcomb sought the six-month exemption for two buildings, the city shop and city offices.

Later that month, Mayor Gary Newman said the exemption will help, but the issue for his city is going to come down to cost. For a small city like Holcomb, Newman said, it would be extremely difficult to justify the expense of a metal detector and full-time security guard, considering the amount of foot traffic Holcomb's public buildings see.

Newman said Holcomb may try to get the longer, four-year exemption called for in the law because it would go a long way to help in budgeting for a potential large capital expense like a metal detector.

"It's a double-edged sword. If insurance rates go up, we're in trouble. If we choose to do a metal detector, it's going to be expensive," Newman said in late June. "It's a tough one. I certainly support people's rights to have firearms, but when it comes to smaller cities, I'd be more excited about this if it was left to cities instead of to a state government decision."

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