TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Shawnee County is the latest local government to approve delaying implementation of a new state law that allows concealed weapons in public buildings.
Commissioners voted Thursday morning to send a letter to the Kansas Attorney General's Office expressing their intention to seek a six-month exemption from the new law.
Reno County and the City of Holcomb also voted for such delays in their meetings this week.
The law requires local governments to allow concealed weapons in public buildings unless they have an adequate plan for security at the buildings, such as the Shawnee County Courthouse, which has metal detectors and guards.
The law takes effect July 1, but local governments that notify the Kansas Attorney General are allowed to exempt themselves until January 1.
After breaking down how the new law would affect Shawnee County, counselor Rich Eckert told commissioners Shelly Buhler (Chair- Dist. 1), Kevin Cook (Dist. 2), and Bob Archer (Dist. 3), that whether they are for or against the new law, he recommends they send a letter to the Attorney General's Office. Eckert said there will be multiple presentations from the state so the county can get their views on the law, and so they will have more time to discuss what to do after January 1.
Under the law, there are two options for exemption: six months or four years. Eckert said for a four-year exemption they would need to adopt a resolution that lists the legal description of each building, a reason for exemption and the following statement, "A security plan has been developed for the building being exempted, which supplies adequate security to the occupants of the building and merits the prohibition of the carrying of concealed hand gun and authorized by the Personal and Family Protection Act."
That means any local government entity opting out of the law for four years would have to develop such a security plan, including metal detectors and guards. Shawnee County has a security council that Eckert suggested may be a good committee to discuss that issue.
Some spaces will not be able to be exempt, though, such as certain parks. "If you can think of something that doesn't have a fence around it or exterior wall, that's going to become open starting January 1, 2014," Eckert said.
Earl McIntosh, a former marine and 2nd Amendment Chair for the Kansas Libertarian Party, addressed Shawnee County Commissioners before their vote Thursday. He said he didn't think they should delay implementation of the law. "Murderers don't go places where people are gonna be armed," he said. "Armed citizens make buildings safer." McIntosh said he thinks in the event of a mass shooting, permit-carrying citizens would be the first to help.
One thing that takes affect July 1st with the new law that local entities will not be exempt from, is the decriminalization of conceal carry. For example, if someone brings a gun into the Shawnee County Courthouse now - even if they say they forgot they had it on them- they would be arrested. As of July 1, they would be asked to leave the building.
The Kansas Attorney General's Office tells 13 News that as of Thursday afternoon, the Concealed Carry Unit has received 33 letters from local units of government seeking exemption. Don Brown, spokesperson for the Kansas Attorney General's Office, said "the AG's office is still reviewing the new statute and will be responding to the interested entities in the next few weeks."
Topeka City Council members plan to discuss the issue at their meeting June 25. There are 23 city buildings that would be impacted by the new state law.
Municipal owned medical care facilities, such as the Shawnee County Health Agency, will have an easier time applying for a four-year exemption. The law reads that they simply need to state the reason for exemption and send that notice to the Kansas Attorney General's Office. Commissioners would also be responsible for sending that letter. Universities and hospitals can apply for the four-year exemption.
Part of the law states that school boards could decide whether to allow teachers with a conceal carry to bring guns to school. Spokespersons for USD 501 Topeka, USD 437 Auburn-Washburn, Manhattan-Ogden USD 383, and Emporia USD 253 told 13 News on Thursday morning that none of their school boards had discussed the issue at a public meeting, nor did they have plans to. Martin Weishaar, with USD 437, said he doesn't anticipate the district will make changes to the current no-gun policy. Michele Jones, with USD 383, said the same of the Manhattan-Ogden board.