After the recent passing of a state house bill, which allows city, county and state employees to carry concealed weapons while they are on the job in the community, the Bourbon County Commission and other Kansas county leaders have less than a month to prepare for such a change to employee policy.
The bill will come into effect on July 1, allowing government employees to carry weapons while they are on duty outside the public buildings, such as in vehicles and when visiting sites around the county, in addition to being allowed to carry within public buildings.
After July 1, 2017, another law will be enforced which allows the public to carry concealed weapons inside those public buildings as well. The only way the county could prevent employees or the public from carrying weapons inside those public buildings would be if they could guarantee the safety of the building by providing security that would prevent anyone from carrying a weapon inside.
The commissioners in a meeting with department heads Tuesday morning expressed their desire to prevent any weapons from being carried into the courthouse, just as the third floor is weapons-free because of the location of the courtroom.
But in order to make sure that floor and possibly the entire courthouse remains secure against weapons, the county would have to provide security through guards, whether deputies or other contracted security officers, as well as equipment such as wands, metal detectors or x-ray equipment.
“I think there are some good options out there, we’re kind of relieved to know,” commission chairman Barbara Albright said, saying at first they had thought they would have to purchase complete metal detectors and other equipment when personnel with wands would be sufficient and cost the county less.
But Shane Walker, involved in emergency management as well as information and technology, said the equipment is not what will cost the county the most to provide the security, but the additional employees’ salaries and benefits. To secure the entire courthouse, Walker said the manpower and the equipment and changes to make sure the single entrance is accessible to everyone could add up to more than $350,000 initially.
“There’s nothing that we can put into place in 30 days,” Walker said.
Walker said he has heard that other counties also are struggling to find the budget money needed to make changes to make sure their administrative buildings and courthouses are secure.
“Money’s an issue,” County Attorney Justin Meeks said, referring to that fact as the 1,000 pound gorilla in the room and saying they may have to consider cuts in departments or raising mill levies.
But because the only change coming this July is allowing employees to carry while on duty outside the building and are allowed to carry in the building already, the commission said they do not have to decide on a plan of action in immediate weeks. The commission did agree to consider forming a committee to continue looking at options as they prepare for when the public would be allowed to bring weapons into the courthouse.
“I don’t believe our risk changes July 1,” tax assessor Rhonda Dunn said, but expressed her concern for the time when any visitor to the courthouse could potentially be carrying a weapon legally.