City to seek gun law exemption for Municipal Court

By Corene Brisendine

City commissioners decided Tuesday to temporarily exempt the Municipal Court, but no other city buildings, from requirements of a new concealed carry law.

Commissioners voted 4-1 to send a letter to the Kansas attorney general seeking a six-month exemption for the court building, at 610 Colorado St. The vote gives commissioners time to develop a security plan enabling the court to be exempt for four years from requirements of the law, which permits the concealed carry of weapons into government-owned buildings as of July 1.

The decision means that other city buildings will be subject to the provisions of the law immediately.

Commissioner Usha Reddi voted against the measure, saying she thought exemptions should be sought for more city buildings. She specifically named City Hall.

Mayor John Matta reiterated his objection to adding City Hall to the list. He said he did not want to discourage the public from attending city commission meetings, adding that even when there is a room full of upset citizens, the commissioners were safe and “common-sense measures could be implemented.”

Commissioner Rich Jankovich said the place to be most concerned with concealed weapons was at the court because it had “potential to have the most volatility.”

Matta agreed with Jankovich. He said that “it has been the feeling that the courts have never had the proper security, and we need to get it there.”

City Attorney Bill Raymond said some other governments including Riley County put all buildings on the list because the law allows listed buildings to be exempt for six months. He also said that if the governing body eventually decided buildings listed in the letter were too expensive to secure, they could be removed from the list before Jan. 1.

Raymond said the law required the buildings to have “adequate security” installed before the carrying of concealed firearms could be prevented. “Adequate” was defined as technologies and personnel capable of detecting metal and providing storage for firearms.

He also said the law allows city employees to carry concealed firearms, but contradicts itself in places. Commissioners, however, were not interested in getting into the details of what those contradictions were and how the city should deal with them.

Commissioner Wynn Butler said the commission was confusing “security” with the new law’s “mandate.” He said the city has the ability to implement any security measures it sees fit at any time in any building it owns. The new law, however, concerned itself with allowing the public to carry concealed weapons inside city buildings. He said once the law goes into effect, the city would be powerless to prohibit anyone from carrying a concealed weapon into a city building that was not listed in the letter, but it could still create and implement security measures to ensure public safety.

The other items on the general agenda were unanimously passed by the commission with a vote of 5-0. Those items were to allow two businesses, Aaron’s Furniture Store and Midway Wholesale, to be built in Heritage Square on U.S. Highway 24; and rezone the mixed-use PUD at 518 Yuma St. to a multi-family residential district.

Butler and Jankovich both voted against a consent agenda item allowing Petsmart to be built next to Home Depot off Seth Child Road. Butler said he drove by the site and it was “clearly in the flood plain.” He also said he was happy to learn the developer has found dirt within the watershed to use as fill-in to raise the “finished floor” out of the plain, but did not think the city should be allowing any more development within the flood plain. The item passed 3-2.

Jankovich also voted against appointing Bob Reader to the Airport Advisory Board. He said he did not see any reason not to reappoint the “existing member,” Christine Benne, to the board. Benne was appointed by former Mayor Loren Pepperd in February to fill the unexpired term of Cynthia Morris, whose term ends June 26. The commission approved the appointment 4-1. All other items on the consent agenda passed 5-0.

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