Archive for Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Businesses ponder handgun ban

November 21, 2006

After the first of the year, the Kansas attorney general will begin issuing permits to allow people to carry concealed handguns.

But that doesn't mean anyone legally can take a weapon anywhere. Some places automatically are off-limits, including schools, city halls and churches.

Among the places concealed guns automatically will be prohibited:

¢ Police, sheriff or highway patrol stations.

¢ Detention centers, prisons or jails.

¢ Public libraries, city halls, courthouses and courtrooms. But judges can carry weapons, and they can determine who else can carry weapons in their courtrooms.

¢ Polling places on Election Day.

¢ County commission and city council meetings.

¢ Drinking establishments.

¢ Public school or college athletics events and professional athletics events, unless they're related to firearms.

¢ State office buildings and the state fairgrounds.

¢ Schools, including elementary, secondary and college, as well as child-care centers and home daycares.

¢ Churches.

Many other places, including most local businesses, will have to decide whether to ban concealed weapons.

Last week, the Kansas attorney general's office released designs and guidelines for business owners who want to prohibit concealed carry on their property.

Jilinda White of First State Bank and Trust, Tonganoxie, said it's clear that the matter is important to financial institutions.

"It will be an important security issue for us," she said. "It will be very important to me that we have a secure environment for our customers and our employees."

Bill Grant, First State's general counsel, said now that the sign design has been determined, he expects the Kansas Bankers Association to distribute the signs to all member banks.

'We were waiting for that to happen," Grant said. "Once the signage comes out, we'll be getting that up before January."

At B&J Country Mart, Eric Gambrill said he's not certain what he and his father will do about concealed carry.

"I don't know how you'd enforce it," he said. ''... We'll have to talk about it."

Anyone carrying a concealed weapon into a business displaying the sign banning the guns can be charged with a misdemeanor -- and lose their concealed-carry permit.

Tonganoxie restaurateur Matt Bichelmeyer said the issue of concealed carry is highly political. And he and his wife, Vicki, are trying to decide the best course.

So Matt Bichelmeyer will spend the next few weeks investigating the matter -- as Kansas gears up to issue its first concealed carry permits on Jan. 2.

One thing is clear: Bichelmeyer will have his own gun in his restaurant.

"I feel strongly about that, with all of the robberies that go on, that a gun can save a life, not take one, when you're on the right side of the gun," he said.

If Bichelmeyer and his wife decide to opt out of the concealed-carry law and ban handguns, they'll have to follow specific guides for signs to notify their customers.

Each sign must be at least 8 inches by 8 inches; its graphic -- a black silhouette of a handgun, surrounded by a red circle with a line running diagonally through it -- must be displayed on a white background; and the sign must be "displayed so that those entering the building will likely see it."

Don't expect to see any such signs in Jeff Howlett's business. The new law has been an economic boon for the owner of Kansas Firearms Specialties in downtown Tonganoxie.

And Howlett, who already carries a visible weapon, said he doesn't believe putting a sign in a business window will change a business owner's liability. And, he said, putting up signs banning concealed carry will send a bad message to customers.

"If I walked over to the newspaper with a firearm on, and it was concealed, would that make me any less of a customer?" he asked. "Would it change the color of my money?"

And while the number of inquiries about concealed carry have slowed down at Howlett's business recently, he expects that to step up considerably after the first of the year, once news organizations do more stories after the law takes effect.

Leavenworth County sheriff's Lt. Charlie Yates said so far his office has processed 155 permit applications. Applicants pay a $150 application fee, $40 of which goes to the sheriff's office, which does a records check on applicants. The remainder is given to the attorney general's office, which conducts a background check on applicants.

¢ For information about banning concealed weapons in a business or applying for a concealed-carry permit, visit the Kansas attorney general's Web site: www.ksag.org.

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