By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog
OSAWATOMIE — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt returned Monday morning to a mailbox stuffed with hundreds of letters, all seeking the same thing: exemption from the state’s new gun law.
In all, about 300 local governments requested a six-month exemption from HB 2052, which allows licensed citizens to carry firearms in most public buildings across the state. These governments will have through Dec. 31 to decide whether to embrace the new law, or pursue a four-year extension of the exemption.
Altoona Republican Sen. Forrest Knox, the bill’s author, said he hasn’t given much thought to the number of entities looking for an escape from the new gun law, though he isn’t surprised to see an interest in maintaining the status quo.
“They put off a decision as long as they can, and that’s what they’re doing,” Knox said.
But while 300 may sound like a lot, it really isn’t. It’s only about 8 percent of the 3,806 total local Kansas governments, according to Governing.com.
Knox is less surprised by the number – he expected a fair number of exemptions – than he is by the logic of those making the request.
“The only thing astounding really is these entities are taking liability,” Knox said.
“If they would think about this rather than taking these quick decisions, I don’t think they would have done that.”
By requesting the exemption, local governments are required to provide “adequate security” in public buildings, ranging from metal detectors and security cameras to armed guards. Such measures come at a high cost, in more ways than one.
Governments prohibiting concealed carry will shoulder the full liability should a shooting incident occur on the premises. The bill provides protections for public and private entities that permit concealed carry.
The City of Wichita has been the most prolific municipality to request exemption; while support for a four-year extension is dwindling, such a move would cost Kansas’ largest city nearly $60 million in personnel and equipment costs.
A little more than an hour to the north, the City of Salina is weighing a similar decision. The Salina Journal reports:
(City Manager Jason) Gage said the city estimates it would cost $60,000 for electronic scanners and a security guard. He said larger cities can’t afford to provide adequate security measures for all buildings.
“Aside from protecting this building and municipal court, your pocketbook isn’t big enough to pay for all buildings,” Gage said. “You can pick and choose (which buildings). If you should choose to not allow conceal carry, you will have to have adequate security measures.”
However, that same cost has also deterred a number of entities, such as the McPherson County Commission.
Ultimately, Knox doesn’t expect many to pursue a four-year exemption.
“You may feel good when you see a sign up on a door saying ‘no firearms,’ but if you think about it you’ll feel worse about it,” he said. “They’re (governments) making them more dangerous places by posting signs and not providing any security.”
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