Lawrence City Commission to consider banning people from openly carrying guns in city buildings

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

At its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will decide whether to ban people from openly carrying firearms in city buildings.

The city attorney’s office is recommending the commission adopt the ordinance, which would prohibit open carry in the 40-plus buildings owned or leased by the city and put in place penalties for those who violate the ban.

The city currently prohibits the carrying of concealed and unconcealed firearms in city buildings under a temporary exemption to the state’s Personal and Family Protection Act, according to a city staff memo to the commission. In order to continue banning openly carried weapons, the city will have to obtain and post certain signs.

The proposed ordinance establishes a penalty for people who enter a city building with such signs posted while openly carrying a firearm and refuse to leave after being asked. Those people would be guilty of aggravated criminal trespass, a misdemeanor, according to the ordinance. Those convicted could be incarcerated for up to a year, fined up to $2,500 or both.

However, there is no sign the city can post to ban concealed weapons. Beginning in January, if the city wants to prohibit concealed weapons from spaces such as City Hall, the Lawrence Public Library or the Municipal Court, it must provide much more security.

State law allows people to have concealed weapons in public buildings that don’t have metal detectors and security guards at all entrances. Even for just a handful of buildings, the city has estimated those equipment and personnel costs would amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

Currently, the only building used by the city that will be able to completely ban guns — whether carried openly or concealed — is the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. That building already has guards and metal detectors in place at its entrance.

The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.