Wednesday, April 16, 2014

County joins officials fired up over new gun law

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 6/13/2013

The Franklin County Board of County Commissioners is following in the Ottawa City Commission’s footsteps by seeking to opt out of controversial legislation that would allow concealed weapons inside some governmental buildings.

The new law, House Bill 2052, which goes into effect July 1, would allow the possession of firearms in certain state and municipal buildings. If a government entity does not want conceal carry permit holders to bring weapons into its buildings, it would have to implement “adequate security measures” at public entrances.

The Franklin County Board of County Commissioners is following in the Ottawa City Commission’s footsteps by seeking to opt out of controversial legislation that would allow concealed weapons inside some governmental buildings.

The new law, House Bill 2052, which goes into effect July 1, would allow the possession of firearms in certain state and municipal buildings. If a government entity does not want conceal carry permit holders to bring weapons into its buildings, it would have to implement “adequate security measures” at public entrances.

Franklin County’s legislative delegation in Topeka — state Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, and state Reps. Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa, and Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville — voted in the favor of the bill, which Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law. The Statehouse is exempted from the legislation.

Franklin County Administrator Lisa Johnson said Wednesday morning at the commissioners’ meeting that the bill was confusing and contradicted itself in certain areas.

“The bill is ambiguous ... and I think the Legislature is going to be revisiting this and possibly rewriting this at the next session,” she said. “I don’t think it’s necessary to spend a lot of time developing a policy for this bill when it’s likely it will change.”

By submitting an exemption letter to the Kansas Attorney General’s Office to opt out of the law until Jan. 1, 2014, county commissioners would have time to review the new bill, see if the Legislature makes any changes and work on getting a safety plan in place, Johnson said.

“Right now, the bill does provide that you can send a letter exempting out of the provision,” she said to the commissioners. “That would protect you to the end of the year, and then you have the option of exempting out for the next four years with a safety plan in place.”

Franklin County Sheriff Jeff Richards voiced his concern at the meeting as well, saying “the way [the bill] is written now, there would be great expense for the county to have security.”

Richards said putting security measures in place now would be costly and ineffective because he’d heard from state lawmakers who weren’t happy with the way the bill is worded and also thinks it will be changed once the Legislature goes back into session. Richards requested the commission provide him with a copy of the exemption letter.

“I do have a file from several other facilities in the county that have exempted out through the letter process,” he said. “I want to provide a list of exempted facilities to all law enforcement officers in the county to make sure we don’t take enforcement action somewhere we shouldn’t, or don’t take it when we should.”

Commission Chairman Steve Harris said he tried to read over the new bill but said it was too confusing and difficult to follow.

“I tried to do a little studying, and the more I read this, the more confused I’d become,” Harris said. “It’s forcing the issue. If you don’t want to allow [concealed carry weapons], then it’s putting a financial burden on all of these municipalities and everyone, and you’re going to have to spend money to keep people from bringing in a concealed weapon. But if you don’t mind, then there’s no expense at all, but everyone gets to walk in [with concealed firearms].”

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