Officials debate interpretation of law surrounding guns in public buildings

By Corene Brisendine

City and county officials differed in their interpretation of the new concealed gun law during an intergovernmental luncheon Monday.

City commissioners disagreed with county counselor Clancy Holeman’s interpretation of how the law allows for exemptions on certain buildings, saying city attorney Bill Raymond had given them a different understanding.

According to Holeman, local municipalities have until Jan. 1 to decide which buildings will get security plans. Then the governing bodies have four years to devise and implement that security plan.

City commissioners said Raymond interpreted the law as giving municipalities six months to create a plan, and then four years to implement that plan.

State Rep. Sydney Carlin, a Democrat, said she interpreted the law as providing a six-month window to decide which buildings to put security in, and then four years to develop and implement a security plan.

Carlin said the law was designed to underscore that people were bringing firearms into public buildings regardless of the “no guns allowed” signs posted on the doors.

“It’s kind of an upended mandate,” she said. “It’s more of a public awareness [law].”

At local levels, an upending has definitely occurred. In addition to the confusion about when to develop a security plan, other questions have arisen concerning the wording in the law.

Holeman raised one apparent contradiction concerning whether government employees can carry concealed weapons in public buildings. Holeman said in one section it clearly states that employees are able to carry concealed weapons into public buildings, but in another section it states they cannot.

Holeman said he will have to seek the Kansas attorney general’s opinion on how that should be interpreted, but he believes it means that in buildings where there is no security plan or exemptions, employees can carry concealed firearms. In buildings where the governing body has sought exemptions or implemented security plans, employees would not be able to carry concealed weapons.

Carlin said she thought the law intended “that the employer could determine if any employee could carry.” She said she understood that the employer could designate groups or regulate which personnel could carry concealed weapons at the employer’s discretion.

Another point of contention, expressed by both city and county officials, is the lack of provisions governing what municipalities can do with new buildings or those not initially exempted by July 1.

Holeman said the way he interprets the new law, there is neither a provision for municipalities to exempt buildings after the July 1 deadline, nor is there any way for them to exempt new buildings.

He said he hopes the legislature addresses those absences during the next legislative session.

Holeman is also concerned about other aspects. He said while the law defines what constitutes “adequate” security, there is no provision stating whether a municipality can implement “less” security.

He asked, for example, whether a metal detector is enough of a security measure without personnel manning the entrance. While the law states that local law enforcement must review the security plan, there is no provision governing what local law enforcement can do if the plan is found to be lacking in security measures.

Another law going into effect July 1 will also affect public buildings. Dick Carter, a lobbyist for the city, said the law removes all restrictions on the types of knives a person can carry within municipalities. He gave examples of switchblades and butterfly knives, which had previously been outlawed. Now, anyone can carry a knife regardless of type, and municipalities will be powerless to regulate them.

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