Lawrence businesses grapple with how to handle gun law

First, Lawrence businesses went smoke-free. Now they’ll have to decide whether to become gun-free.

“It’s kind of odd to get the sense that now, if you go into a high-end restaurant, you may be having to check your coat and gun,” said Chuck Magerl, owner of Free State Brewing Co., reacting to Thursday’s news that the Legislature had overridden Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ veto of a concealed carry handgun law.

Magerl said that before Thursday, he hadn’t given any thought to whether he would allow patrons to carry guns into his restaurant at 636 Mass. He said it’s a subject that hasn’t come up in the regular mailings and newsletters he receives from statewide restaurant trade groups.

“I’m not sure anybody has a real sense of how it’s going to impact our day-to-day lives,” he said. “Just when we think we’re having to deal with normal aspects of being in business, this one gets dumped in our lap as well.”

The law bans guns from certain types of establishments, such as schools, day cares, courthouses and bars. But many of the places where people conduct business are fair game, including restaurants and most other businesses.

Jon Amyx, owner of Downtown Barber Shop, 824 Mass., said he had no problem with the law and didn’t plan to implement a “no guns” rule for his shop.

“I’ve got a lot of faith in the screening process,” he said. “We have guys that are probably carrying guns in here now that we don’t even know. We always joke around with people when we hang their coats up. We say, ‘You have your gun in your coat?'”

Jim Lewis, owner of Checkers, 2300 La., said he needed to research the law first, but he predicted he would prohibit customers bringing guns into the store, much as he now prohibits customers carrying backpacks.

“We’re probably going to have to post signs that say ‘No handguns allowed,'” he said, citing a concern about the possibility of a gun-related crime in the store.

When Oklahoma passed a similar law in the 1990s, some people there feared a return to the Wild West era, said Lt. Michael Metcalf of the Stillwater Police Department.

“There was a bunch of this, ‘We’re going to have people going back to the John Wayne, OK Corral days,'” Metcalf said. “None of that has happened.”

Metcalf said his department has not had any cases where someone carrying a legally concealed weapon had used it to wrongly shoot another person. Nor has the department seen an instance in which a concealed weapon holder foiled a mugging or committed some similar heroic deed.

“The ones that we’ve had that pull the guns out and shoot people are the ones that ain’t supposed to have them anyway,” he said. “We haven’t had any issues with it at all, really. The biggest thing is that if we stop somebody that has a permit, the officer just has to tell the guy, ‘Keep your hands away from your waist.'”

In Oklahoma, the average age of a permit recipient in 2004 was 55, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Of the people who applied for permits, 80 percent were men.

Joe Arterburn, a spokesman for Cabela’s, said he didn’t anticipate any rush on handguns at the company’s Kansas City, Kan., store but that “it certainly could spur some more interest in that line of merchandise.”

Lt. Kari Wempe, a spokeswoman for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, said the office would review the bill and work with Atty. Gen. Phill Kline’s office to determine how it may affect the department. The law calls for county sheriffs to handle permit applications.

Lawrence Police did not return phone calls seeking comment.