by Jeremy Johnson, Pittsburg City Commissioner
On Friday, a new state law went into effect changing who can carry a concealed weapon, and where they can carry it. The Pittsburg Morning Sun published an article the same day explaining how the laws will impact Pittsburg. However, the article does not provide much context or explanation of these laws, and a number of citizens have expressed their concern and confusion to me. I feel that some clarification is in order.
As a result of HB 2502, signed into law in early June, two important changes to Kansas law took place: 1) it is legal for anyone with a concealed carry license to carry a firearm into any public buildings that are not equipped with proper signage and adequate security measures to prevent bringing firearms into the building; and 2) it is legal for city employees to carry concealed weapons with them while at work. Current state statute defines “adequate security measures” as “the use of electronic equipment and personnel at public entrances to detect and restrict the carrying of any weapons into the state or municipal building, including, but not limited to, metal detectors, metal detector wands or any other equipment used for similar purposes to ensure that weapons are not permitted to be carried into such building by members of the public.”
Before Friday, the city had been exempt from allowing concealed carry in public buildings, per the statute, and could have continued the exemption until July 1, 2017. But because the law allowing city employees to carry concealed weapons went into effect on Friday, city staff felt it would be easiest to go ahead and allow public concealed carry in city buildings at the same time, rather than trying to enforce separate codes for employees and the public. The city will not attempt to meet the adequate security measures requirement to avoid concealed carry in public buildings primarily because of cost; city staff estimated the cost of putting metal detectors and guards in the affected buildings (Memorial Auditorium, the public library, and city hall) would be around 2.5 mills of property taxes (about $300,000) per building, which is not money the city currently has available.
The Morning Sun article suggests that little opposition to these new laws can be found, but I can testify to the contrary. Many residents I’ve spoken with are incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of people being able to carry weapons into the library and Memorial Auditorium, where large numbers of people, including children, gather on a regular basis. And city staff have been grappling with updating personnel policy to cover the event of a city employee deciding to bring a gun to work–a task made all the more daunting by the fact that a large number of city employees do most of their work not in city buildings, but out in the community. The Commission will review the updated policies at their next meeting on July 12.
Jeremy Johnson is a first-term Pittsburg’s City Commission. His term runs through January 2020.