Lawrence suspends plan to prohibit concealed weapons in public buildings

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

Lawrence is abandoning a plan to equip some city buildings with security measures that, under a new state law, must be installed in order to prohibit concealed firearms.

Kansas’ “Personal and Family Protection Act,” passed in 2013, allows concealed weapons in public buildings that don’t contain metal detectors and armed guards. The law allowed for cities to prohibit concealed carry for a maximum of four years before complying.

To prepare for the end of that exemption, the city attorney’s office proposed $114,600 in the 2017 budget to buy metal detectors, metal detector wands and baggage screening machines for four public buildings: City Hall, Lawrence Municipal Court, Lawrence Public Library and the police department’s Investigations and Training Center.

City Manager Tom Markus said Thursday the proposal was stricken from the 2017 budget because of its expense.

“I’m in the midst of trying to figure out how to balance a budget and deal with those things,” Markus said. “That was one of those that didn’t survive the process. There are other serious financial issues we’re trying to address at the same time.”

The $114,600 was included in Lawrence’s capital improvement program introduced to the City Commission earlier this spring.

The cost of armed guards was to be taken from the city’s operations fund. The law requires two armed guards for each public entrance, plus an extra guard to cover absences. The personnel cost for the four buildings was estimated between $280,000 to $780,000, depending on whether the city would pay police officers or contract with a private security company.

Markus said the City Commission may revisit the issue.

If security measures are not in place by the time the exemption ends in 2017, concealed weapons will be allowed in the buildings.

“We’ve been living in an environment without metal detection in many of our buildings and simply having a placard on the wall,” Markus said. “And I suspect those placards are not adhered to all of the time. I suspect it’s going on without the so-called exemption.”

Besides the cost, Markus said he eliminated the proposal from the budget because of an upcoming effort to consolidate locations. The city leases the building at 1006 New Hampshire St. that houses Lawrence Municipal Court. That lease is coming to an end, Markus said, and the city is considering relocating the court.