Concealed carry law could result in higher government, university spending

Illustration by Parker Robb | The Collegian The Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act, signed into law last year by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, which requires all public buildings in the state to allow licensed people carrying concealed firearms access, is leaving some city and municipal governments with a choice between doing nothing and letting concealed firearms inside, or paying huge sums of money to secure their buildings using extra protective measures.

On April 5, 2013, Gov. Sam Brownback signed the Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act which requires all cities and counties in the state to allow people with concealed carry licenses to bring their concealed firearms into courthouses, hospitals, libraries and government buildings. The law also allows firearms to be permitted inside public college campus buildings.

Originally signed as Senate Bill 21, the law became effective on July 1, 2013, It states that cities and counties, including public colleges, across Kansas must choose between permitting legally concealed weapons into public buildings or paying for extra protective measures to ensure patron safety.

The steep cost of such installing and maintaining security measures, however, could force many to permit weapons, whether they want to or not.

In response to concerns brought up by organizations such as the Kansas Board of Regents, the governing body of the state’s universities, exemptions in the law would be made for buildings that, “installed adequate security measures.”

“Right now, it won’t affect us for the next four years,” said Ronnie Grice, assistant vice president for public safety and university police. “The Board of Regents filed for an extension that lasts until 2018.”

According to Grice, one of the reasons why the board asked for an extension is to determine how to fund the added security. In addition to more security equipment, the university would also have to come up with funding for training that would be required for students, faculty and staff.

It is currently unknown whether funding for the security measures at K-State would come from tuition increases or from other sources.

“They have this law written where something’s got to give,” he said. “We’re not really against the law, but we’re concerned about the level of training. You don’t know how students will react to an active shooter.”

Grice said the law will likely force K-State and other colleges to increase spending for new police officers and magnetron metal detectors.

“That’s going to be the plan,” Grice said. “I hope to have more officers. However, the law brings up other problems. Will we be able to put magnetrons on every entrance? Will we be able to put security on every door?”

Unlike the regents, Manhattan City Commissioner Rich Jankovich said the city did not receive a four-year extension to prepare for the law.

“Our planning had to be done by July of last year,” Jankovich said.

Due to the costs of the added safety measures, Jankovich said only the municipal court will be secured.

“It would have been too costly to look at securing other buildings,” Jankovich said. “There’s also been discussion about building a new courthouse sometime in the distant future, but no costs have been discussed.”

The facilities the City of Manhattan that now allow concealed carry weapons include City Hall, 1101 Poyntz Ave.; the ice rink in City Park; all city swimming pools, the Sunset Zoo, 2333 Oak St.; city parks; and other locations.

Other cities in Kansas have found the cost of added safety measures to be an issue as well. As reported in a Jan. 11 New York Times article by Steven Yaccino, Wichita declined to extend its exemption after police determined it would cost $14 million per year to increase security in all of its city-owned buildings.

Jankovich said the issue of liability is a major concern for the city, as lawsuits and other legal actions could form as a result of the law. He also said that community feedback about the direction the city is taking is mostly positive.

“We made the right decision with the courts,” Jankovich said.

That view is shared by Lee Tebbutt, owner of Double Tap Defensive Shooting Club in Manhattan and certified concealed carry instructor. He teaches an eight-hour course that is mandatory for those who want a concealed carry license.

“I support it,” Tebbutt said. “I think a municipal building with proper security and metal detectors to keep the bad guys out is okay. If those measures are in place, I have no problem.”

He added that although he supports secured government buildings, he said he still believes in the right of citizens to legally carry firearms into unsecured locations.

According to the Attorney General’s office, Kansas issued more than 20,000 concealed carry handgun licenses in 2013 compared to the approximately 10,000 the state issued in 2012.

Tebbutt said he saw an increase in enrollment for his class after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. in December 2012. Whether that jump was due to fears of concealed carry licenses being revoked remains to be seen.

“I used to teach [concealed carry] classes mainly to people who knew how to handle firearms and were used to them,” Tebbutt said. “Now I get a lot of new people who have never owned a gun, so I’ve had to make some changes to the class. I now teach people how to handle a firearm and maintain it in addition to the course material.”