Kansas City Council votes to ban the ‘open carry’ of firearms

07/31/2014 7:00 PM

08/01/2014 9:57 AM

Kansas City will clamp down on people openly carrying guns — at least for now.

At Mayor Sly James’ urging, the City Council voted 9-0 Thursday to ban the “open carry” of firearms, saying Kansas City doesn’t need any more weapons on the streets.

“This is not an environment where we need to have everyone armed to the teeth,” James told his colleagues.

But the city’s new law, which takes effect in 10 days, may soon be weakened by the state.

That’s because the Missouri General Assembly has already approved a bill prohibiting cities from banning open carry for gun permit holders. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill, but the legislature holds its veto override session Sept. 10, and the bill’s sponsor is confident.

“We should have the votes to override,” said Missouri Sen. Will Kraus, a Republican from eastern Jackson County.

Open carry is now common in Missouri, but cities are allowed to ban it. Kraus’ bill would limit that power.

James said that the open carry ban is one regulatory option cities still have under Missouri’s lenient gun laws and that Kansas City should take advantage of that window of opportunity. Although open carry may be just fine for rural areas, James said it is not appropriate for Kansas City.

He said he wanted the city to get on the record with its position before the override session, and he will urge the legislature to sustain Nixon’s veto. But if lawmakers override the veto, Kraus’ law prohibiting cities from adopting full open carry bans would take effect Oct. 10.

City Councilman Scott Taylor said he has heard from police officers who believe a ban will be helpful, since it will discourage people from displaying weapons in an intimidating manner.

Kraus said his bill doesn’t allow criminals to brazenly carry weapons. But it does allow people with concealed carry permits to carry weapons openly, and reduces the minimum age required to get a concealed carry permit from 21 to 19.

Kraus said people who get these permits have received the required training and background checks and shouldn’t have to worry about being hassled by law enforcement if they show a firearm in public.

“I want to make sure law-abiding citizens have the right to bear arms,” Kraus said.

As for police who may have a concern about someone showing a weapon, Kraus said anyone with a concealed carry permit is supposed to have the document when out in public and can simply show it to the officer.

Kraus also said his bill does not stop businesses or government offices from posting signs to keep guns out of their establishments.

Kevin Jamison, president of the Western Missouri Shooters Alliance, said Thursday he thought the City Council should busy itself with more important issues than open carry regulations.

Jamison said some people may consider the display of a weapon intimidating, but it has not caused a rash of problems in Missouri or elsewhere. And he said enforcing these bans is not a good use of police time.

Jamison said it’s not lawful to brandish a gun, and in his firearms safety classes he teaches a long section on manners. “Gun flashing is impolite,” he said, adding that proper firearms etiquette discourages aggressive display of a weapon.

Open carry has also been a big topic in the state of Kansas, where the Legislature approved a bill in April that nullified most city and county gun restrictions. The Legislature said cities could no longer ban the open carrying of weapons in public areas, parks and sidewalks.

Supporters said the new Kansas law, which took effect July 1, would eliminate a patchwork of local regulations that confused gun owners and infringed on people’s rights.

Wyandotte County used to have a ban, but it was removed when the state law took effect. The law does give municipalities a three-year exemption, until 2017, during which time they can prohibit guns in government buildings, and Wyandotte County is taking advantage of that exemption, said Unified Government spokesman Edwin Birch.

Birch said that some people are upset about the open carry provision in other public spaces but that so far there have been no problems reported. After 2017, he said, municipalities will have to allow guns in all their buildings that don’t have metal detectors and guards.

Some area cities, like Olathe and Shawnee, already allowed open carry and have had no gun restrictions on the books in recent years. Overland Park and some other cities repealed their open carry bans more than a year ago.

In Overland Park, guns, whether concealed or open, still aren’t allowed inside city government buildings, said spokesman Sean Reilly. And businesses can still post signs prohibiting weapons in their establishments.

But Reilly said he was aware of at least one call where a constituent was upset that someone was openly carrying a firearm at the city’s soccer complex. “There was nothing we could do,” Reilly said.

James said openly displaying a gun like that in Kansas City serves no useful purpose.

“It doesn’t accomplish anything positive, and there’s a ton of negatives,” he said.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

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