Lawrence crafting security plan to comply with state concealed carry law

photo by: Mike Yoder

Lawrence Public Library, pictured Aug. 20, 2015.

When its four-year exemption to a new Kansas law expires next year, Lawrence must allow concealed firearms in public buildings unless they’re equipped with security measures such as metal detectors and armed guards.

To prepare, the city attorney’s office has proposed funds in the 2017 budget to install security — both equipment and personnel — at public entrances to City Hall, Lawrence Municipal Court, Lawrence Public Library and the police department’s Investigations and Training Center.

Kansas’ “Personal and Family Protection Act,” passed in 2013, allowed for cities to prohibit concealed firearms in public buildings for a maximum of four years before complying. Lawrence approved a resolution in December 2013 to continue its prohibition of concealed weapons until the exemption ran out.

“That’s what we are currently under,” said Maria Kaminska Garcia, assistant city attorney. “When it expires, we either have to allow the carrying of concealed firearms inside of municipal buildings or install adequate security measures at all public entrances to keep weapons out.”

A draft of Lawrence’s five-year capital improvement plan, which was released Friday and comprises large projects, contains $114,600 in 2017 to install security equipment at those four buildings. Equipment would include metal detectors, which range from $5,000 to $6,000 each, Garcia said, as well as metal detector wands. The city is also looking into baggage screening machines, costing around $20,000 each.

The cost of armed guards for those four locations would be hundreds of thousands of dollars more.

According to documents released with the capital improvement plan, the four buildings were deemed “high priority” because of the number of people who visit them, “including persons who may become impassioned and emotional during their visit.”

There are 57 other buildings in Lawrence that can be accessed by the public and would be opened for concealed carry.

Garcia said Lawrence won’t move forward with installing equipment and hiring guards until the City Commission decides on how it wants to handle compliance with the new state law. The estimates for the four buildings serve as an example to city commissioners about the cost of compliance.

A date for the commissioners to discuss the issue has not been set, Garcia said.

But because funds are proposed through the 2017 budget, which commissioners will discuss in coming months and pass in August, conversations about security funding are likely to happen soon.

“This is just a proposal of what type of equipment and in what building,” Garcia said. “We have to stay tuned to see what the City Commission wants to do, so everything is tentative right now. This is the time they’re going to be discussing it.”

Estimates for armed guards for the four buildings range from $280,000 to $780,000 per year.

Each public entrance to the buildings would need two armed guards, the documents say. An additional person would be needed to cover absences.

The higher end, around $780,000, would be the cost if the city were to have police officers guard the buildings. The estimate for hiring guards through a private security company is $280,000, and hiring city employees, such as retired law enforcement officers, would cost around $420,000.

Garcia said there was some uncertainty about when security measures would need to be in place. Lawrence’s resolution states the city would be exempt until Jan. 1, 2018, but a law passed by the Legislature this year specifies that the exemptions end July 1, 2017.

The new bill is under review, Garcia said.