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Open carry triggers discussion among commissioners





The Hays City Commission met Thursday for a work session and grappled with balancing gun rights and catering to others' sense of safety.

With Mayor Henry Schwaller IV absent, commissioners discussed a proposal to ban the open carry of firearms in 12 city facilities. The same leaders debated gun possession in December when they allowed concealed carry on city properties.

The Kansas Legislature has enabled municipalities to post signs banning open carry in their buildings.

Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler said open carry lets people possess guns in public view. No training or license is required.

"Unlike concealed carry, open carry exposes the public to individuals who are potentially untrained with a firearm," Scheibler said. "The public display of firearms may also alarm, frighten, intimidate and/or make city employees and the public feel unsafe."

City staff recommended adopting the prohibition on open carry in the buildings. Salina, Emporia, Junction City and Manhattan have enacted the measure, while Dodge City and Derby allow open and concealed carry.

Following Commissioner Shaun Musil's confirmation that open carry does not require training, Commissioner Kent Steward responded.

"I have to say it's not that mysterious," Steward said. "It's called the Second Amendment."

An audience member applauded Steward's comment.

Using Hays Regional Airport as an example, Scheibler said police would respond to an emergency call about an individual exercising open carry. The person's actions and demeanor would dictate the response level.

The issue will be discussed next week.

In other business:

* Commissioners heard a presentation concerning using portable shipping containers as permanent storage units. Proposed regulations included painting the units to match surroundings, banning them from residential areas, not allowing them to use utilities except for electricity and prohibiting stacking except in industrial areas. The ordinance will be voted on next week.

* Commissioners allowed I.D. Creech, Hays director of public works, to pursue adding a $4.50 charge on flights out of Hays Regional Airport. The funds can help the airport pay for projects on the property. Creech needs to communicate with SkyWest Airlines before moving forward.

* City staff informed the commission about a $1.1 million bid from Mayer Specialty Services LLC for a storm sewer-lining project.

* Commissioners learned about a financing plan to pay for metal storm pipe rehabilitation. Rather than bonding the project out, the storm water management budget can be used to pay for a debt service plan. The approach would yield the city a $16,000 gain on its investment.