Kansas Statehouse Maintains Open Gun Policy | News, Sports, Jobs

? When visitors go to the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, they now enter through a single public entrance where they must pass through metal detectors and have their bags and briefcases x-rayed by security personnel.

But if someone were to enter the building hiding a loaded handgun in a jacket or under a belt, there’s almost nothing security personnel can do about it.

Indeed, around the same time these security devices were being installed, the Kansas Legislature enacted new laws making them virtually obsolete.

A security guard at the Kansas Statehouse operates metal detectors and x-ray machines, checking visitors who walk through the entrance, even though Kansas law now allows virtually any adult to carry concealed weapons in the building . Officials say the security measures also filter out other illegal items.

Today, it is perfectly legal for almost anyone in Kansas to carry concealed and loaded handguns in public and in most state-owned buildings. And one of the new laws enacted this year clarifies that these people don’t even need a license or specific gun safety training to do so.

“Under the new law, you can carry a concealed weapon there as long as you meet state and federal standards,” said Capt. Andy Dean, Capitol Police Division supervisor with the Kansas Highway Patrol, who manages security at the Statehouse and other state office buildings in Topeka.

Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Wichita, who chairs the House Federal-State Affairs Committee, says the law is rooted in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which grant citizens the right to bear arms as a matter of self-defense.

“Criminal citizens, they don’t follow any restrictions, so the only people we put restrictions on are law-abiding citizens who could be a deterrent to crime,” he said.

Dangerous scenario

But Dean and other security officials said the policy was concerning, although they insisted Statehouse is still safe and secure.

The scenario they worry about, they said, is an “active shooter” incident in which others who legally carry concealed weapons remove them and use them for self-defense.

When law enforcement officers arrive at this kind of scene, security officials say, they won’t have time to ask questions about who shot first and who is the criminal. Their job will be to eliminate anyone with a firearm who is not a law enforcement officer.

“That’s the unfortunate side of it,” Dean said. “As law enforcement, we are going to have to identify the threat. It’s difficult if several people are armed. This could be a potential issue that you may encounter.

Brunk said those are legitimate concerns, but he said they weren’t enough to justify giving up people’s constitutional right to carry firearms.

“It comes down to when do we thwart the Constitution because of a potential concern that may or may not materialize,” he said. “Our oath of office was to respect and obey the Constitution, and so we view the Second Amendment as something that is an inherent right granted by the Constitution of the United States.”

Representative John Wilson, a Democrat from Lawrence, said he thinks allowing concealed weapons in the Statehouse is a bad idea.

“Whether on Capitol Hill or elsewhere, I don’t think it’s a good idea to allow people to carry loaded and concealed weapons without a state-issued license, which requires them to pass a criminal background check. and to participate in a reasonable amount of training,” he said.

Expand gun rights

Governor Sam Brownback signs into law a bill allowing people to carry concealed handguns without a license and without taking mandatory firearms safety training.

Since 2013, Kansas lawmakers have enacted a series of new laws that have dramatically expanded the right of people to carry concealed weapons. The first law, enacted that year, allowed people to carry concealed weapons if they obtained a license and passed a gun safety course.

This law also gave private companies, local governments, and the state itself the ability to exempt themselves from the law, provided they displayed standard “no weapons” signs at their public entrances.

But for the statehouse itself, the power to exercise that option has been given to the Legislative Coordinating Council, a group of eight top bipartisan leaders from the Kansas House and Senate. But the law only gave the LCC one year to exercise that option, and last June the group let that time expire without taking action.

“Part of it was because the building was being renovated,” Brunk said. “When he went to a conference committee, one of the Senate committee members, who is no longer in the Senate, did not sign legislation one way or the other because the building was Under renovation and access was being restricted. »

In 2014, lawmakers went even further, passing a law prohibiting local governments, except school districts, from enacting local gun control laws and requiring them to allow concealed carry in their own municipal buildings by 2018, unless they can provide sufficient security to ensure that no one – whether a criminal or a law-abiding citizen – could bring a weapon into the building.

And this year, they went even further, making Kansas one of only five states that now allow the carrying of concealed and open firearms, and repealing the requirement to obtain a license to do so.

Political equation

This year’s gun bill passed both houses by wide, even bipartisan margins: 85-39 in the House; 31-8 in the Senate.

Lawrence’s four House members and two senators voted against the bill.

But some lawmakers say that doesn’t reflect the popularity of the issue, but rather the power of the Kansas Associations and the National Rifle in Kansas elections.

“They’re either concerned about the political power of the NRA influencing elections or they have issues they’d like to be in power to work on, and that’s not the issue they want to fall on their swords for, if you want.” Rep. Wilson said. “There’s an awful lot of power that the NRA and the Kansas Rifle Association have outside of the building, during campaign seasons, that’s the real issue.”

But Rep. Tom Sloan, a Republican from Lawrence, said he thinks most lawmakers who support gun rights legislation are sincere about it.

“I voted for concealed carry originally,” Sloan said. “My objection is to carrying a gun without the proper training on safety, and when and where you can or can’t fire a gun, on what self-defense is. … That concerns me.

However, both said they have confidence in the Statehouse security staff and still feel safe in the building.

“I feel safe in the Capitol, and I don’t think I will ever feel unsafe,” Wilson said. “But I don’t think it creates the most welcoming environment for visitors, allowing open transportation without background checks.”

Capitol Police Captain Dean said the public should also feel safe.

“We are always mindful of the safety and security of visitors and building employees,” he said.

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