Danedri Thompson
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Gardner City Council members debated requesting a four-year exemption from a new law that requires carry-and-conceal (CCL) gun licensees be allowed to carry in public buildings. Council requested a short-term exemption from the law this spring. The law went into effect in July and Gardner’s exemption will current exemption will expire on Jan. 1, 2014.
The law, known as House Bill 2025, requires that municipalities allow licensed people to carry guns in public buildings like city hall or that the buildings be adequately secured with provisions like metal detectors and armed guards. Municipalities were allowed a one-time, six-month exemption to research the issue. They can request a second, four-year exemption as long as city officials draft and file an approved security plan with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office.
At a Nov. 4 city council meeting, Police Chief Gerald Cullumber proposed three options for city council members to consider. He said officials can disallow license holders from carrying in city hall by adequately securing the building. That would require placing metal detectors and armed guards at both doors. Cullumber estimated that would cost would be more than $90,000 annually, including a one-time cost of $7,998 to purchase equipment and salary and benefits for the guards.
Council members could draft a security plan and request the four-year exemption.
“What we’re looking at here is totally different than adequate security measures,” Cullumber explained. The plan would not be subject to the Kansas Open Records Act, so the public would not have access to it.
That would incur costs as well, though Cullumber did not offer and estimate of what that cost would be. He recommended that the security plan could involve bullet-proof glass around employee areas of city hall, panic buttons and the installation of security cameras.
Cullumber said the four-year exemption would be the least expensive to implement and would allow some citizens and employees to feel less threatened and comfortable in city hall.
A third plan would remove the ‘No gun’ stickers on the doors of city hall and allow CCL holders to bring their weapons into city hall. Cullumber suggested similar security measures like ballistics glass and panic buttons if the stickers are removed. He said that the city would incur one-time costs of between $17,000 and $22,000.
Under the third option, council could consider allowing city employees who have conceal-carry licenses to carry their weapons to work, but Cullumber recommended against it.
The police chief warned that city staff would likely bring their guns to work and show them off to co-workers, and a weapon could go off. He also said a CCL licensed staff member may not know the difference between an angry customer exchange at utility billing and an actual threat. Licensed city employees carrying guns in public buildings could be an insurance liability, he explained.
Cullumber said two of the plans could potentially alienate the CCL license holders in Gardner.
One license holder, Rich Melton, addressed council members at the start of the meeting.
“Spending resources, time and effort in blocking approximately 300 concealed carry licensed holders seems to be a waste of funds and time,” Melton said.
Brett Limer, Gardner, spoke in favor of requesting from the state a four-year exemption from the state from allowing guns in city hall.
One thing was unclear during the discussion. City staff told council that insurance companies have not yet offered how coverage may change depending on which option the city chooses.
“Most insurance policy holders are really reluctant to say what they will or will not do,” Cullumber explained.
The four-year exemption is a one-time option. In four years, city officials would need to either put metal detectors and guards in place or remove the “gun free” zone stickers from the doors.
“It’s kicking the can down the road,” council member Steve Shute said.
Cullumber said the exemption doesn’t solve the problem, but he said his law enforcement peers in other communities are hoping the four-year exemption will allow the Kansas Legislature time to clean-up the new law.
Council will continue discussion about whether to request the four-year exemption at the next meeting set for 7 p.m. Nov. 18 at city hall.