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June 20, 2013
TOPEKA The architect of Kansas’ new conceal-carry gun law today urged local officials to comply with the letter and spirit of the law.
Sen. Forrest Knox, an Altoona Republican, called a Statehouse news conference to respond to misinformation about the law and criticism of it from local officials from across the state.
Knox said chief judges who are considering how they can continue to keep guns out of district courthouses “need to follow the law.” And he said insurance companies that decline to write coverage for school districts that allow teachers and staff to carry guns need to be prepared to lose business to other insurers.
Starting July 1, persons licensed to carry concealed guns will be able to enter most public buildings in Kansas if those buildings are not protected by “adequate security measures,” which are specified in the law.
A compromise forged during the session allowed municipalities to seek six-month exemptions while they study options for increasing security. After that, they can request a one-time, four-year exemption for specific buildings for which security plans have been developed. Universities, hospitals, nursing homes and community mental health centers can also receive four-year exemptions from the attorney general.
However, after Dec. 31, 2017 no exemptions will be allowed for non-secure public buildings.
Several city, county and school district officials across the state have raised concerns about the law, complaining that it imposes a costly one-size-fits all policy on local governments while doing little to enhance public safety.
“There are times you have to stand up and say you don’t think this is the right thing,” Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said at a recent meeting of the City Council, according to the Wichita Eagle. “Just because a state legislator thinks it’s the right thing doesn’t make it right.”
Jim Flory, a Republican member of the Douglas County Commission and former county prosecutor, also objected to the law.
According to a report published in the Baldwin City Signal, Flory said: “We need to make every effort we can to work with the Kansas Association of Counties to try to get some amendment.”
However, Knox said it is not unreasonable for the state to require local governments to either protect their citizens in public places or allow them to protect themselves.
“Local control starts with our citizens,” he said. “We should not tread on their rights while at the same time taking no steps to prevent criminals from bringing illegal weapons into public buildings. Good Kansans with guns make all Kansans safer.”
Most homicides and aggravated assaults in Kansas do not occur in buildings covered by the new gun law, according to crime statistics compiled by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
None of the 63 homicides recorded in 2011 occurred in a government building. One was committed in a hospital. Only 112 — less than 2 percent — of the more than 6,000 aggravated assaults reported in 2011 were committed in government buildings. Another 136 occurred in schools — public and private — or on university campuses.
Statistics aside, Knox said he believes that having more Kansans carrying guns in public places will make them safer and help to prevent the kind of mass shootings that have occurred elsewhere in the country.
“Armed, law-abiding Kansans are not a problem. As a matter of fact, they’re a solution when trouble comes,” he said.
To reinforce his point, Knox said as soon as he obtains a conceal-carry license he plans to be armed while at the Statehouse even though the building has adequate security.
“I’ll about guarantee you that when I’m licensed I’ll carry a gun in this building,” Knox said. “And I know lots of people who will starting July 1.”
There are conflicting studies on the question of whether conceal carry laws enhance public safety. But a review of studies and media investigations done by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence revealed that substantial numbers of people with conceal-carry permits committed violent offenses.
One study found that between 1996 and 2001 concealed handgun license holders in Texas were arrested for 5,314 crimes, including murder, rape, kidnapping and theft. From 1996 to 2000, license holders were arrested for weapons-related crimes at a rate 81 percent higher than Texas’ general population age 21 or older.
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