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Concealing the Statehouse debate

Published on -8/5/2014, 9:18 AM

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A month has passed since the top management committee of the Kansas Legislature -- the Legislative Coordinating Council -- decided it is OK to allow concealed carry of guns into the Statehouse.

So far, just four visitors with concealed-carry licenses have brought their guns into the Capitol. And, so far, nothing untoward has happened. That's a good thing.

But this is summertime, and we Statehouse habitues are wondering just what the fall and next legislative session will bring.

The LCC based its decision -- or more accurately, its decision not to make a decision on concealed carry in the Statehouse -- on the basis the building has great security. Visitors have to go through metal detectors; anyone carrying a concealed gun would set off alarm buzzers, and they either would have to prove they are licensed to carry that concealed gun or they don't get into the building.

Sounds reasonable. If you have a concealed-carry permit, you're trained and probably safe to carry it around. If you don't have a permit, you don't get to wander around the building where legislators are making high-profile, controversial decisions on legislation that will effect Kansans' lives or pocketbooks or child-support payments.

There were months of angst about the decision on concealed carry by visitors to the Statehouse. Lawmakers and others with offices in the building who have permits can conceal-carry; it's just the visitors who are checked.

This appears to work so far, when most of the visitors to the Statehouse are vacationers or Kansans just wanting to see how the $300 million renovation of the Statehouse has turned out. Not a lot of concealed-carry opportunities for the shorts and T-shirt crowd.

This winter, it'll be a different deal, and it's up to security to make sure if people have guns under their jackets or in their purses, they are licensed.

But there still are concerns. In the olden days, security and police officers always liked to be the only ones in the room with a firearm.

That was for their protection, because most everyone with a firearm has a uniform or a badge on, and you knew who they were -- before concealed carry.

While the Statehouse's security cadre knows the employees, the lobbyists, the legislators and the "regulars" in the building, the folks who they don't have to worry about, there's always the chance if something happens -- say just a shouting match or some other relatively minor disturbance -- local law enforcement officers would come into the Statehouse to help quiet things down. Those cops don't know who's who, so the licensed concealed-carry folks become distractions for them.

Law enforcement officers know to flash their badges conspicuously so other law enforcement can concentrate on other people. It's going to be hard to flash a driver's license with a concealed-carry checkmark or the concealed-carry license in an attention-drawing way to make law enforcement believe you are not a threat.

Now, the real test of how this concealed-carry in the Statehouse is going to work probably will come when the Legislature starts in January and the halls are packed with visitors, and those folks who aren't carrying concealed weapons wind up in the same line with concealed-carry visitors at the entry gates. At some point, those "regulars" are going to be delayed in entering while the carriers haul out their certificates. Those unarmed visitors might miss a hearing on a bill or an appointment to visit a lawmaker, and there will be some carping at the entry points.

Concealed carry in the Statehouse? So far, so good, with the real policy road test yet to come.

Syndicated by Hawver News Co.

of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report.

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