Unified Government Commissioners tonight felt they were being forced to vote in a change to the UG’s human resources policy allowing concealed carry of handguns by UG employees on the job outside of UG buildings.
The new policy on concealed carry goes into effect on Friday, July 1, under state law. The policy change was approved on a unanimous vote.
A ban will remain in effect on any guns inside the UG’s buildings, according to officials.
Mayor Mark Holland said approving guns in the workplace is not anything he would ever want to do.
“The state Legislature continues to complain about the politicians in Washington overreaching their effect and infringing upon states’ rights, and yet these same legislators actively are creating more burdens for local communities,” Mayor Holland said.
The gun laws of the last two years are the first time since statehood that the cities of Kansas have not had permission to regulate their own gun laws as they see fit, Mayor Holland said. This is despite a home rule provision in a constitutional amendment.
He said the cities of Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita have very different concerns than, for example, Pratt, Colby and Concordia, Kan. Each city is a different size with a different makeup, he said. Kansas City, Kan., is in a metropolitan area with about 2 million residents.
“We need to be able to make laws that make sense for our own community,” Mayor Holland said. The UG has trained 300 police officers and 200 deputies to carry guns, with extensive training, and they are qualified to carry a gun and have a sworn oath to carry the gun, he said.
“I am not happy about the idea that people who have no training and no oath are carting guns around while employed for the Unified Government,” Mayor Holland said. “I think that we’re not going to solve cancer with cigarettes; we’re not going to solve gun violence with guns. This additional burden on the cities is a liability for our city that is unacceptable. It is required by state law, and we will commit to abiding by state law.”
Commissioner Angela Markley pointed out the change was forced upon the local government by the change in state law.
“The only way we can change this is to go out and vote,” Commissioner Mike Kane said.
The human resources policy was amended to allow concealed carry after the state Legislature passed a bill saying government employees must be allowed to carry concealed weapons when they are not in government buildings.
The UG’s new policy has many rules about concealed carry, including one that stated guns cannot be left unattended in UG-owned vehicles. However, employees may leave guns in their own vehicles, out of sight, according to the policy change.
Employees also will not be allowed to carry concealed handguns in a way that others can notice an outline of them, and they will not be allowed to tell anyone that they have a concealed handgun, according to UG staff.
In addition, they may not bring a concealed handgun onto any private property that does not allow them. If there is a sign on private property, such as a business, that says no guns are allowed, the UG employee will not be allowed to bring a gun onto the property, according to the policy.
The new state law says anyone may carry a concealed weapon and training is not required. Only convicted felons and those who have domestic violence convictions are not allowed to carry guns.
The new UG human resources policy says carrying a weapon is not within the scope of employment, unless the person is a law enforcement officer. So, if an employee shoots himself in the foot, the injury will not be covered by workers’ compensation, UG staff said. The UG will not defend an employee who injures someone while on the job; that employee would be doing that on his individual liability, according to the new policy.
Commissioner Angela Markley said the UG has a sliver of control over the issue in that it can set its own policies on concealed carry.
“We’re trying to use that sliver of control to make sure our employees and our residents feel safe,” Commissioner Markley said. Some people feel safer because they can carry a gun, while others feel less safe knowing that other people are carrying guns.
She asked the commission to be clearer in the policy language on termination. The new policy said employees may have consequences up to and including termination for violating the policy, and Commissioner Markley said she thought the policy should clearly state that they should be terminated if they violate the policy.
“If you ‘accidentally’ bring your gun where you shouldn’t, you’re putting everybody here in jeopardy, making everyone feel unsafe, and your job should be over. That’s how I feel about it,” Commissioner Markley said.
Administrator Doug Bach said the current wording would give the UG supervisors some latitude in considering the circumstances of the violation.
The commission, after a suggestion by Mayor Holland, decided to take up the matter of the wording concerning termination at a later UG committee meeting. The commission passed the concealed carry policy change as presented on Thursday night.
The new concealed carry provision may apply to UG employees such as those who are inspecting property, those who work outdoors, or firefighters responding to calls.