Danedri Thompson
[email protected]
Conceal and carry license holders will not be allowed to carry guns in city hall. City council members agreed to request a four year exemption from a state law that would allow licensed holders to carry firearms in publicly-owned buildings.
The city will request that only city hall be exempted from the new law. License holders will be allowed to pack heat in other city-owned properties, including the Gardner Aquatic Center. Schools are exempt from the law.
Following the four-year exemption, city officials will have to secure city hall with metal detectors and armed guards or take down the sticker identifying city hall as a gun free zone. Police Chief Cullumber estimated it would cost approximately $100,000 annually to meet the requirements.
Several citizens argued against wasting time and resources to secure city hall.
“It’s a ridiculous waste of our resources and our money, and I don’t want to see it happen,” Lee Moore, Gardner, told council.
Moore, a conceal-and-carry license holder, said it doesn’t make sense to fortify city hall against patrons like him.
He said if city officials are going to spend money, he would prefer they spend it on the police department rather than bullet proof glass at city hall.
City council members expressed concerns about the legal and insurance cost ramifications of allowing licensed holders to carry concealed guns in city hall.
Ryan Denk, city attorney, would not speculate which of the options – allowing conceal-and-carry at city hall, or requesting the exemption – would create bigger legal challenges.
Council member Tory Roberts said the city is already opening itself up to liability because conceal and carry will be allowed in other city-owned buildings.
Council member Heath Freeman said he wasn’t worried about insurance premiums increasing, if city officials allowed conceal and carry at city hall. He said he called Kentucky officials, who dealt with similar law changes recently.
“They said there wasn’t a change (in insurance rates),” Freeman said. “That’s what I found from other people’s experience.”
Freeman said he supported the request for a four-year exemption because it is a one-shot deal. Officials have until the end of 2013 to request the exemption. After that, they will be required to take down the stickers calling city hall a gun-free zone.
“It’s a one-time deal,” Freeman said. “We can always take the signs down later.”
Council member Steve Shute said Kansas and federal law allow citizens the right to own and carry guns.
“Approving the letter is kicking the can down the road,” he said. “I don’t see the value in submitting a letter.”
Council member Kristina Harrison said very few citizens have contacted her about allowing conceal-and-carry in city hall. However of those who sent emails to her on the topic, the majority requested that city hall remain a gun-free zone.
City officials met in executive session to draft a security plan that will be part of the letter requesting exemption from the new law.
Council members voted, 3-2, to request the exemption from the Kansas Attorney General. Members Kristina Harrison, Freeman and Fotovich voted to request the exemption. Roberts and Shute voted against it.