So when is a Kansas-owned building that doubles as a private residence governed by the laws of the state?
When do different rules apply? And most importantly, can you bring a concealed weapon to the Kansas governor’s mansion or the KU chancellor’s residence?
Depends on who’s home. And if that person is the governor or the head of one of the state’s six public universities. Confused yet?
You’re not alone. This riddle has prompted a number of officials to check the fine print this week when reporters came calling for specifics.
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The confusion was unleashed by the most recent loosening of gun laws in Kansas. On July 1, a new concealed carry statute went into effect, after being staved off for four years while officials contemplated how it would be implemented, presumably in an effort to head off confusion such as this.
But what hasn’t been spelled out was whether state-owned buildings that also serve as private residences would be considered public or private property when it comes to enforcing gun laws. Turns out, it depends on the desires of the current tenant — and perhaps who is home at the time.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, through a spokeswoman, has said that he is fine with allowing guns to be concealed and carted into the governor’s mansion even when he is home with his family. But he didn’t have to give that answer.
The governor could have decided that when he is home and the space isn’t being used for a public reception or a tour, concealed guns should be banned.
After rereading all the applicable laws, the Kansas Highway Patrol, which is responsible for public safety at the governor’s residence, determined that Cedar Crest is a bit of an oddity under the terms of the new statute.
Apparently, the governor’s mansion can somehow morph from public to private space, subject to the concealed carry law when open to the public and exempt from the statute when in use as a residence.
The chancellor of the University of Kansas and other university presidents also have that option for their state-owned homes, according to a spokesman for the Board of Regents. Those spaces are also often used to host alumni gatherings and fundraisers.
For now, signage declaring Brownback’s residence a gun-free zone have been taken down on the grounds of Cedar Crest in Topeka.
But the public may need to ask ahead of time which rule will apply at Cedar Crest and at the homes of university leaders. Visitors might have to leave their weaponry in the car. Or not.
The scenarios are an example of legislators eagerly supporting a change in the law but failing to foresee real-world implications. It’s a good bet no one thought to raise these questions during debates.
And in 2018, it will be worth watching whether the gubernatorial candidates who supported the new gun law will still embrace the idea of allowing concealed weapons at the mansion they hope to call home.