Overland Park is tagging along with Wichita in a decision to permit the open carrying of firearms.
It was announced this week that the Overland Park City Council approved an ordinance to let legal gun owners openly carry their weapons — if they are in holsters with the safety engaged.
Wichita, earlier this year, passed a similar ordinance permitting “open carry,” but, according to Wichita newspaper reports, the city council there apparently favors “a re-examination of our options” — a re-examination provoked by public concern.
The two communities indicate their actions were a response to a nonbinding opinion issued by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who said the cities “may not completely prohibit the open carry of a loaded firearm” on any property that’s open to the public, unless the property is posted with signs prohibiting weapons. His opinion was based on the contention that cities can’t enforce gun laws that are more restrictive than the provisions of state law.
However, cities are allowed to restrict the way firearms are carried, which led Wichita and Overland Park to require guns be in holsters with the safety on. Authorities in each city said they had no interest in challenging the matter in court, so they in effect removed prohibitions on carrying weapons that were tougher than the state’s law.
Lawrence does not appear to face a similar challenge because its “carriage” laws seem minimal and relate to carrying handguns near bars. So state law prevails. What will other communities do? Apparently, it’s up to the Legislature to address the situation before Kansas begins to resemble the Old West, with residents strolling down the street wearing sidearms. (However, this is the same Legislature that had been unwilling to address provisions of the concealed-carry law that make it possible for the blind to maintain their permits.)
Should residents of Lawrence or any Kansas city be forced to accept openly armed residents at the gasoline pump or in the grocery store or just out walking on the sidewalk? Especially knowing that, unlike those who obtain concealed-carry permits, no permit, no training, no background check is required for someone who decides to strap on a holster and pistol?
Surely, most Kansans would say no.