Editorial: No guns in court

Municipal court should be moved to another site with better security as weapons law takes effect.

At a minimum, the city of Lawrence should invest in the security necessary to prohibit concealed weapons from being brought into City Hall and municipal court.

The city’s exemption to the state of Kansas concealed carry law ends Jan. 1. That means the city will either have to allow concealed weapons in its more than 20 public buildings or implement security measures to prevent individuals from carrying weapons into the building. Security measures mean metal detectors and security personnel at all entrances.

Estimates are that equipping four of the city’s most frequently visited buildings — City Hall, municipal court, the library and the police department’s Investigations and Training Center — would cost between $530,000 and $895,000, depending on personnel salaries.

The city has no plans to add the required security to any of its buildings in time for Jan. 1, though there are plans for the municipal court for the future.

The city’s 2018 capital improvement plan includes $114,600 for walk-through metal detectors, metal detector wands and baggage-screening machines. There is also $49,000 allocated in next year’s operational budget for an additional part-time security guard position at municipal court.

Mayor Leslie Soden is open to discussion about adding security to city buildings, if it can be worked into the city’s budget.

It seems most prudent to maintain the ban on concealed carry in municipal court and City Hall. There are a couple of ways to do this as efficiently as possible:

• Move municipal court, which is in leased space on New Hampshire Street near the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, into space at City Hall. It would seem municipal court and Lawrence City Commission meetings could use the same room.

• Work with Douglas County to move municipal court into the county-owned building that houses the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, which is already home to the district attorney’s office, District Courts and the Lawrence Police Department. Metal detectors and security guards are already in place at the center.

Municipal court is the most obvious facility where the city should continue to ban guns. Moving the court to either City Hall or the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center requires that metal detectors and guards be added at just one city building. It is the most affordable strategy for addressing the new concealed carry law.