As Kansas concealed carry applications hit record highs, the Kansas Legislature is considering a bill that would allow people to concealed carry into more government buildings.
The measure approved by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee would require the state, cities, counties and townships to allow concealed guns in their buildings unless they have electronic equipment and officers to check for weapons at public entrances.
State law now generally bans concealed weapons in courthouses, state offices and other public buildings where officials post notices.
Judges dictate rules for their courtrooms and could ban guns from courts even if they are allowed in courthouses.
Public schools and state colleges in Kansas could also designate workers to carry concealed guns even if such weapons are banned inside their buildings for others under the bill.
The committee’s vote sent the bill to the full House for debate.
McPherson County Sheriff Larry Powell said he had concerns about allowing concealed carry in government buildings. He said exchanges can become heated in some of the courthouses offices, and officers have been called to courthouse to resolve them.
“A lot of people get upset about their taxes,” Powell said. “It is a no-win situation. People do things. A lot of them don’t have control. I will be really curious to see what (the Legislature) will do. I will be surprised if they allow that.”
Nick Gregory, McPherson city administrator, said law enforcement officers also have been called to the McPherson Municipal Center to deal with out-of-control residents.
Gregory said he did not support or oppose concealed carry, but he had concerns about concealed carry being allowed in city buildings.
“I have a concern for the safety of my employees here,” he said. ... “I would just assume not have any guns in the building.”
Security at the Municipal Center is relatively lax, Gregory said. He admitted anyone could bring a gun into the building relatively easily.
If the bill is passed, governments could restrict conceal carry in their buildings if they had extra security measures in place, such as metal detectors.
Gregory said he did not see that happening. He feared putting in such a security system would be cost prohibitive.
The city also would have to decide if it would allow its employees to carry concealed weapons while on the job.
Ultimately questions on employee concealed carry and beefed up security will be up to the city commission, Gregory said.
“We will just have to review everything,” he said. “It is just too tough to make a decision right now.”
Page 2 of 2 - McPherson Police Chief Robert McClarty said he strongly supports the concealed carry option for people who complete the appropriate course and licensing.
However, he too expressed some concerns about concealed carry in government buildings.
“I believe there should be a lot of caution in municipal and court buildings,” he said. “The Legislature should take that into consideration.”
McClarty said he approached concealed carry in municipal buildings with grave caution, saying the situations in the environment can become escalated.
However, McClarty said illegal weapons are a greater concern.
“Concealed carry will not affect people illegally carrying already,” he said. “I far more worried about people who are carrying illegally than those who make the effort to do it legally.”
By the numbers
The concealed carry debate is being played out a against a back drop of increasing applications for concealed carry permits in Kansas.
More than 53,000 people have obtained concealed carry permits since the state began issuing them in 2006. Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office reported 3,573 people applied for permits in February, up from the previous record of 3,167 in January. Before this year, the previous record was 1,651 applications in March 2012.
McPherson County also has seen a significant jump in concealed carry applications, more than tripling the average number of permit requests in 2012.
During 2012, 135 permit requests were filed in McPherson County. To date in 2013, 78 permit requests have been filed.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Contact Cristina Janney @firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @macsentinel.