Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Duel begins over concealed carry in public buildings

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Gun enthusiasts on Monday pushed for legislation that would allow concealed carry of a gun in public buildings and prohibit local governments from regulations on carrying firearms.

Currently, state, county and city governments can prevent concealed carry of guns in their buildings if they post a gun-free sign.

Under House Bill 2055, people with concealed carry licenses could bring their weapons into public buildings if the building didn't have adequate security measures, such as metal detectors and security personnel.

"Posting the no-carry sign is tantamount to placing a bulls-eye on that facility," said Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association.

"It only provides a risk-free, victim-rich environment for criminals," she told the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.

Al Terwelp, state chair of the Kansas Libertarian Party, said the measure was needed "to help protect law enforcement and law-abiding citizens who choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights in Kansas."

But cities, counties and other groups opposed the measure.

"It is a massive unfunded mandate on local governments and the citizens they represent," said Mike Taylor, a spokesman for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City. "The bill crushes local control and nullifies decision making by locally elected officials," he said.

Taylor said the cost of installing metal detectors and security personnel at the Unified Government's municipal buildings would be more than $2 million.

"The requirements of the bill are so burdensome and costly, many cities and counties will have no choice but to allowing the carrying of concealed weapons into City Hall, recreation centers and other public buildings because they can't afford to do otherwise," he said.

Several groups asked to be exempted from the bill.

That included the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas.

"If an individual who is in crisis walks through our door carrying a concealed weapon, that situation presents a dangerous scenario, not only to our staff, but also for other patients seeking treatment," said Michael Hammond, executive director of the mental health association.

The Kansas Board of Regents has stated its opposition to concealed carry on university campuses. But on this bill, Andy Tompkins, chief executive officer and president of the regents, said the board was neutral because of a section that authorizes the governing board of a university to decide whether to be exempted from the legislation.

"This local control provision allows the governing board to debate and make the appropriate decision for that particular campus," Tompkins said.

Last year, a similar bill passed in the House but died in the Senate. Proponents believe they will be able to get Senate approval this year.