Topeka — A new Kansas law allows legislators to carry concealed guns into the Statehouse, which could lead to problems if there's an incident, Capitol Police told top lawmakers Wednesday.
The law, which took effect in July, was designed to allow people with concealed carry permits to bring their weapons into public buildings, where they generally had been banned. The law says state and local agencies can't ban concealed weapons unless their buildings have adequate security measures, such as metal detectors. Agencies can exempt sites from the requirement until 2018.
The law also requires legislative leaders to set a concealed carry policy for the Statehouse in June 2014. However, it's written so that legislators — who have greater access to the building than the general public — can legally carry concealed weapons if they hold state permits.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, raised the issue Wednesday during a briefing for legislative leaders on security at the Statehouse, where a 13-year, nearly $330 million renovation of the building is nearing completion. Legislative leaders took no action.
"I believe it's going to pose some problems," Capitol Police Sgt. Terry Golightley said.
But House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey, a Louisburg Republican, said he doesn't think having legislators carrying concealed weapons makes the Statehouse riskier.
"It doesn't bother me," he said after the briefing. "The question I always ask when we have these debates about guns, wherever: How many guns have been brought into buildings? And we don't know. You never know."
Lawmakers — along with their employees and other people who have offices in the Statehouse, including reporters — have key cards that allow them to enter without going through metal detectors. Also, Golightley noted, a memo from an attorney on the Legislature's bill-drafting staff said earlier this year that, as elected officials, lawmakers don't have an employer with the authority to ban them from carrying concealed guns to work.
Both Golightley and Hensley said if there's an incident, officers from multiple agencies will converge on the building. A concealed carry permit holder who's drawn a weapon may mistake an officer for the assailant — or an officer may believe the permit holder is the assailant, Golightley said.
"When we arrive at the scene, we have about — less than — a second to decide," Golightley said after the briefing. "If somebody has a gun in their hand, it could be possibly they're a good guy taking out the gunman, but it also could be that they're getting ready to take another person's life."