On July 1, guns allowed at Osage City municipal buildings

On Monday, anyone who wishes to carry a gun into Osage City Hall or any other of the city’s facilities may do so as long as they are in compliance with other state laws. A new state law that takes effect on July 1 prohibits municipalities and other government entities with public buildings from posting signs that designate the buildings as gun-free zones, unless security is provided for the general public.

A stipulation in the new law, which was passed by the Kansas Legislature a few weeks ago, allows municipalities a six-month exemption to the law if they make a request to the state attorney general by July 1. Municipalities that receive the exemption are given the time to develop a security plan; once the plan is developed, the law allows a four-year period before the plan must be implemented.

At the June 25 council meeting, the Osage City Council rejected requesting the six-month grace period at the urging of one council member.

Osage City Council Member Ed Berends said he believed the cost of providing security at any of the city’s buildings would be too much for the council to spend any time developing a security plan.

Berends said he had recently spoken with a county commissioner about Osage County’s request for the six-month exemption to the law.

“They said the cost was cost-prohibitive, was astronomical to be able to secure all of the doors, to have metal detectors in there and have security on there anytime the buildings are open,” Berends said. “We’ve got 27 buildings … that would be an astronomical money for the city to spend just to not go with state recommendations.”

He said people who have concealed carry licenses must undergo criminal and mental health background checks through the state, and should be allowed the right to carry guns in public places.

“People who carry the guns have been approved by the state to be able to carry guns,” he said.

Reading from an information sheet provided by state Sen. Forrest Knox, Berends said, “In America the right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed and we must not allow this to be denied in any place they have the right to be.”

City attorney Rick Godderz said it was city staff’s recommendation that a request be made for the six-month exemption.

Speaking to Berends, Godderz said, “I think your comments are very good, but I think the item on the agenda tonight … is whether or not the council wants to send this letter.”

He said the request would give the council six months to “consider whether the city wants to implement a plan to provide security at some or all of the buildings.

“You probably can’t because of the prohibitive cost,” Godderz said, “but if you come up with a plan that’s acceptable, that will give you another four years to either to come up with the money to do it or the legislation may change. You at least want to give some consideration about what to do about concealed carry. We’re asking for six months for the police department and everybody else to give some time to think about this law in case you would want to prohibit them.”

“And if we don’t do it?” asked Osage City Council Member Duane Peroo.

“Then you’ve got to take all your no guns signs down off windows and anybody can come into city council meeting, municipal courts, any meeting you have, with concealed weapons,” Godderz said.

“If we’re going to come up with a plan, I’d like to see some time to think it through,” he said. “If you don’t do something by July1st, you’re going to forfeit that time.”

Osage City Council Member Becky Brewer said she thought the city should request the exemption and take time to consider a security plan.

Referring to a discussion about the city’s golf course that happened earlier in the meeting, Brewer said, “I think we’ve already said were going to take time to decide whether we’re going to spend money to water the greens or not. I certainly think it’d be worth taking the time to discuss this and think about it and not make a decision tonight.

“If we want additional information on whether we want to pay to water the greens at the golf course, we can surely take a little more time than just this evening to make this type of decision for all the buildings in the city,” she said.

“There’s only one thing, you can’t control guns period,” Peroo said. “And you can spend all the money you want but you can’t control guns.”

“All you’re controlling is the law abiding citizen,” Berends said.

With Osage City Council Member Leroy Stromgren asking for his opinion, Osage City Police Chief Fred Nech said he agreed the city should request the time to examine the issue, even though he believed the cost of providing security for the city buildings could be expensive.

“We just need to take some time to think this through,” Nech said.

He said that city staff sometimes faces angry and upset people, especially at the police department.

“We face potential threat,” he said.

With Osage City Mayor Quintin Robert asking if the council wanted “to take six months to kick this around,” Berends said, “That’s what we’d be doing, is kicking it around, we couldn’t secure anything.”

Berends then said he could understand the need to provide security for municipal court.

“But we’d need the six-month extension to do that,” Brewer told him.

Godderz expressed his opinion on the new law, saying, “Bottom line on all this, it’s political, that’s all, it’s not for the safety of the public, that’s hogwash.”

Osage City Council Member Rob Rowe seconded Brewer’s motion to send the letter to the attorney general. The motion failed on a 5-3 vote. Voting in favor was Brewer, Rowe and Osage City Council Member Linda Carson. Voting against the motion were Berends, Peroo, Stromgren and council members Ed Mueller and Rick Martin.

In the golf course discussion, the council spoke with Lee Seastrom, a volunteer at the golf course, who inquired about how the golf course greens would be watered if all of the water is drained from the lake during an ongoing lake rehabilitation project. The council postponed a decision until utilities director Mike Gilliland could investigate whether water could be provided to the golf course from the city’s fresh water supply, in case the lake is completely emptied.

Headline revised 9:14 p.m., June 29, 2013.

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