By GISEELLE ARREDONDO
• Leader & Times
The proposed concealed carry plan of city manager Mark Hall created dissenting opinions among commissioners at the city commission meeting Tuesday evening.
The purpose of the plan is to establish restrictions for the possession or carrying of firearms in city-owned buildings subject to a new Kansas law that allows concealed carry effective Jan. 1, 2014.
The plan divides city buildings into two categories: Non-exempt and Exempt, according to Hall. The non-exempt areas include:
• City Hall
• Recreation Center
• Mid-America Air Museum
• Visitor’s Center
• Willow Tree Golf Course
• Adventure Bay Water Park
Remaining buildings, according to Hall, are buildings that are not generally open to the public and these areas will be prohibited from concealed carry.
In order to ensure a safe environment for employees and customers, the City of Liberal should not prohibit the lawful possession or carrying of firearms in non-exempt city buildings, according to Hall.
Non-exempt city buildings are buildings that allow the lawful possession or carrying of firearms, but prohibit the unlawful possession of other dangerous weapons. Non-exempt city buildings are designed and or operated to conduct daily business with the general public.
For example, this plan does not prohibit the lawful possession or carrying of firearms in a city parking area.
Any employee whose workstation or office is located in a non-exempt city building must make a written request to the Human Resources Director before bringing a concealed weapon in an non-exempt city building. The request must include verifiable proof of gun ownership and the employee has been licensed to carry a concealed weapon. The city building must allow conceal and carry, otherwise the request will be denied.
This plan does not prohibit the wearing, transporting, storage, or presence of firearms and/or other dangerous weapons in exempt city buildings where no weapons signs are posted.
Employees are prohibited from possession or carrying a weapon while acting in the course and scope of their employment, either on or off city propery, regardless of whether the employee has a permit to carry a weapon, except as otherwise provided in AM 729 Administrative Policies and Procedure Manual.
Hall emphasized this policy will not apply to law enforcement personnel authorized by the State of Kansas. Exempt city buildings are buildings that do not allow firearms or other dangerous weapons of any kind. No vehicle or equipment owned, leased or otherwise under the control of the city may be used to store or carry a weapon. Prior to Jan. 1, 2014, training sessions on city policies will be conducted. And during the months of January and Febrary 2014, additional training sessions on city policies, to include the workplace violence policy will be held.
From the very beginning of the presentation of the concealed carry plan, Hall clarified that the plan is not about gun rights, but about the safety of employees.
“The Kansas law was changed by the state legislature allowing concealed carry in public buildings unless there was ample security. I think every city has dealt with this and it’s one that’s not truly, as far as the city is concerned, about gun rights – it’s about the safety of employees. Most of our buildings are not designed to deal with a general public on a daily basis. Those would remain exempt, and we will post those signs so people can see it will only be allowable for employees to enter and exit,” he said.
Vice Mayor Janet Willimon later asked if the water park was non-exempt, could a lifeguard carry a gun in their Speedo.
Hall replied with a “yes.”
Signs on non-exempt buildings will be removed on Jan. 1, Hall added.
Concealed carry will only be allowed in buildings that are non-exempt.
“This is trying to reach a way to satisfy the state, but also protect the employees. Employees in the function of their job outside the buildings will still not be allowed to conceal carry while in performance of their job, but in these buildings that I’ve mentioned, concealed carry will be allowed and employees would be allowed to conceal and carry in those buildings. Once they leave the building for performance, they would have to store the weapon if they chose to carry in the personal vehicle. Under state law, they can’t leave it unattended in a concealed carry allowable building,” Hall said.
“We do have some city-leased buildings,” Hall said. And the landlord can choose to continue or discontinue concealed carry.
“That’s theirs and they own the building. It’s their call,” he explained.
Parking areas will allow concealed carry, Hall stated.
“This mainly addresses municipal buildings, of course, state buildings and county buildings. The parking area is for lawful possession. We do not forbid that in city parking areas,” he said.
And he then explained that this plan is the product of looking at different alternatives and costs.
Hall said, there will be some costs, but that it will be minimal. It is estimated at well under $10,000.
“City employees can have one under their desk or in their desk, if they have concealed carry?” Willimon asked.
“No, they can’t store it in their desk. They have to carry it,” Hall explained. “In a concealed carry allowable building. Now, when they leave to perform their job, then they have to store it in their locked vehicle.”
Commissioner Joe Denoyer noted that he found this plan to be a bit discriminatory, and there was more clarification that took place thereafter.
Denoyer continued, “Second Amendment assures our right to bear and keep arms and the Kansas legislature this last year stated the licensed gun owners are allowed to bring their concealed weapons into public buildings and people who try to bring them to public buildings where they are prohibited won’t face criminal penalties. I guess the problems that I’m having right now with this is, it seems to me that it’s kind of discriminatory. Some employees can. Some employees can’t. You have to go through the concealed carry class where there are background checks, safety issues – all this is addressed. It’s an 8-hour class, you pay $100 and then you become licensed. And then to carry in City Hall, the Rec Center, you have to register again by notifying that you have a weapon? To me that’s – they have already been approved by the state to have this weapon.”
“Joe, let me help you here a little bit,” Mayor Dave Harrison said. “If I’m thinking about this right, it’s the same as if you are going to work for the city and you are going to operate a vehicle, they are going to ask to see a copy of your driver’s license, even though you have already passed the test from the state.”
Hall continued, “Like I said, people coming in and out of the building and our staff, they will not know who does and who doesn’t, and that’s part – they can’t brandish the pistol, they can’t tell people they have a gun. It is one of those that’s strictly through HR and that’s just verifying that they have the information. We, technically, according to state law, we should not know who conceals and carries.”
“But you are going to ask them to let you know if they do,” Denoyer said.
“No, I mean just the general public” Hall interrupted.
Denoyer continued, “That’s where I’m coming up with discriminating. Some can. Some can’t. There are city laws, there are state laws, federal laws we don’t like. I just say, save the expense, take the signs down. That’s how I feel. How do you know right now who is carrying and who is not? Everywhere even in the exempt buildings?
“You don’t know if a person in a street department or a sanitation department or maintenance department is carrying right now. Nobody knows,” Denoyer said.
“And I don’t feel we have had an incident of rage to where someone might – I just think the law is the law and it’s allowed through state legislature. I just say take all the signs down,” he added.
“Right, let’s just take down all the signs and the metal detectors down,” Willimon suddenly said.
After much silence she added, “I’m joking.”
Harrison then later said, “I understand staff has worked hard on this. I don’t think this is something they dreamed up. They have done a lot of research.”
After much debate, sides still couldn’t agree.
Firstly, the motion to adopt the plan as proposed was entertained by Harrison and seconded by Willimon. Those opposed were commissioners Denoyer, Dean Aragon and Ron Warren.
Later, a motion was made to remove the signs, but that motion failed with Harrison, Willimon and Aragon against and Denoyer and Warren in favor.
Harrison then suggested that Hall meet with each of the commissioners and explain it to them a little better.
“You can adopt or not adopt it. It’s still not going to change city policy,” Harrison later said.
This conceal carry plan will be further discussed at the Dec. 23 city meeting.