GOP host eases no-gun policy for event

1/23/2014

WICHITA (AP) — A Wichita hotel that will be the site of this weekend's Republican Party State Convention has decided to ease its no-gun policy so attendees can pack heat if they want.

Debbie Luper, chairwoman of the Butler County Republican Party, told members in an email this week that the Hyatt Regency agreed to temporarily relax its policy for the sold-out event that starts Friday, The Wichita Eagle reported.

"NOTE: for our convention, the Hyatt has agreed to drop its no guns on premises policy! That was a point Chair Kelly Arnold negotiated hard for in the contract," Luper wrote in the email.

Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, confirmed the hotel's move, even though "No Gun" signs might still be posted outside.

"A lot of Republicans feel the 'No Gun' sign serves no purpose," he said.

Barker called the policy change symbolic, noting that most attendees probably wouldn't bring guns to the event. Instead, the move is more about acknowledging that Kansans have the right to carry firearms.

Rachel Whitten, spokeswoman for House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, said lifting the ban is an issue that's as much about the rights of businesses as it is gun owners.

"The Hyatt as a business had a right to impose a ban on their property or lift it," she said. "They're a privately owned business."

Aly Rodee, a spokeswoman for Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita, said she is comfortable with other attendees carrying guns at the convention.

"I don't think I'll even notice. My dad and brother both have concealed carry," she said.

Wagle won't be taking a firearm because she doesn't have a conceal carry permit, Rodee said.

Eileen Hawley, spokeswoman for Gov. Sam Brownback, would not say if the governor plans to bring a gun along, calling it a "party issue."

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