Is Lawrence going to be like Dodge City in the days of the O.K. Corral, or are our city’s public building entrances possibly going to resemble the screening areas for airline boarding?
Those appear to be the options facing local governments as they consider alternatives for complying with provisions of the state’s most recent changes in the law that enables citizens to carry concealed handguns.
The law no longer lets city or county buildings simply be posted with the “no gun” placards to make it illegal for anyone to bring a concealed firearm inside. The law, as changed by this year’s Legislature, says governments can post those placards only if the buildings have adequate security measures, like metal detectors and security officers, in place. Otherwise, citizens with licenses can carry their concealed weapons into the buildings.
Tuesday night, the City Commission exercised an option and will ask the attorney general for an exemption. If granted, the status quo would be maintained for a limited period of time. The law provides up to four years of exemptions, with certain provisions.
The annual cost to Lawrence taxpayers of operating one secured entrance to a public building is estimated at $84,000, after buying the metal detector. At least three city buildings are being considered for security systems; others are possibilities. The dollars add up quickly.
Officials are concerned about allowing armed citizens into some facilities and venues. City commissioners dislike the possibility of having firearms in City Commission meetings, where already a police officer is routinely on duty in case tempers flare or unruly behavior erupts.
The choice for local government officials across the state is not an easy one, but perhaps in today’s society security is the better option. Even so, it will be disappointing to shift resources from parks, streets and projects and organizations that benefit people to metal detectors and security screening.
Perhaps if enough local governments seek exemptions and complain about the changes in the law, the Legislature will re-evaluate the cost and consequences of its action. The public would value reconsideration and revisions based on facts, experience and the impact on the pocketbook.