Concealed Carry and Public Buildings
By Dave Warren
The Kansas Legislature in 2013 permitted a person with a‘concealed carry’ permit to take their gun into some public buildings. The ‘concealed carry’ law originally permitted building occupants to post signs indicating that guns were not allowed on their premises. Concealed carry permit holders apparently felt that banning their weapons was an affront to their good character and intentions, because the gun lobby pressed the legislature to eliminate the signage restriction. In doing so, the Legislature gave local governments time to put security measures in place to make public buildings secure or allow concealed weapons inside. Included in the delay were schools, institutions of higher education, and government-owned health care facilities (except mental health). The time delay for compliance was probably given in recognition of the expense of complying with no state financial assistance.
Admittedly, a building entrance door sign banning guns offers no assurance of safety from a gun attack. Security measures likewise offer no assurance of safety from a gun attack by a concealed carry permit holder, unless the weapon is held. The type of security measures effective to ban weapons from a public building would be metal detectors, x-rays, and body frisks monitored or performed by a paid employee or employees. The expense is essentially the same as needed for an airport boarding area. Small jurisdictions generally will be unable to afford security measures and will be coerced into accepting concealed weapons inside their offices and meeting rooms. Larger jurisdictions will be more likely to afford security, but to finance it will have to either forgo another need or raise taxes. Those jurisdictions in the middle will face costs disproportionate to the benefit. They will probably opt to permit concealed weapons rather than incur the expense.
The alternatives to permit conceal carry or provide security measures are not the only ones. A jurisdiction could simply deny building access to everyone except employees. Business of citizens could be transacted in a lobby area with a bullet-proof, pass-through window like those found in all-night gas stations and with closed circuit television and computer equipment. Public meetings would be attended with remote viewing. Besides initial costs, an on-going financial burden would be avoided. Personal contact between citizens and government employees who serve them would be sacrificed. This arrangement may be the unintended consequence of the Legislature and Governor Brownback cow-towing to the gun lobby, rather than serving the Common Good.
Gun attacks in public buildings are not fantasies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (July 14, 2010) reports that between 1997-2010, workplace homicides totaled 8,666 of which 6,850 were shootings, many of which occurred in buildings. The number of shooting homicides involving local government, mostly law enforcement, was 355. Although few homicides involved service employees or elected officials, there have been recent incidents in Saylorsburg, PA; Kirkwood, MO; and Wilmington, DE where deaths occurred.
The potential exists when the government closest to the people enforces laws that persons, who may have a mental illness, will manifest their opposition to enforcement through gun violence. Truth is, this is not a “concealed carry” issue. It’s a mental health and gun control issue. State institutions and local governments should not be forced to either accept concealed weapons or spend outrageous sums to insure safety. The Common Good to be achieved is the protection of citizens from becoming victims of gun violence. Holders of concealed carry permits would better serve their communities by simply leaving their weapons at home or in their car when visiting public buildings or institutions.
-Dave Warren is a Co-Founder of Moderate Party of Kansas