Overland Park wants more legal advice on gun rules

An Overland Park City Council committee considering new regulations for the open carry of firearms decided Wednesday night to seek a legal opinion from the Kansas attorney general before acting.

Facing potential legal action from the Libertarian Party of Kansas, the public safety committee members deferred voting on a proposal that would have restricted open carry only to those with a concealed carry license.

The decision came after a public hearing attended by several dozen people.

Seven people addressed the committee, including officials from the Libertarian Party, which maintains that state law precludes the city from restricting law-abiding adults from openly carrying weapons.

Earl McIntosh, the party’s Second Amendment chairman, told committee members that passing the proposed change to the city’s open carry ordinance would lead to a lawsuit.

Afterward, McIntosh said he supported the decision to seek a clarification from the attorney general.

Overland Park rescinded its previous ban on the open carry of firearms in September based on a previous opinion by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt that under state law, a city “may not completely prohibit the open carry of a loaded firearm on one’s person, or in the immediate control of a person, while on property open to the public.”

But state law does give local governments the ability to regulate “the manner of openly carrying a loaded firearm on one’s person.”

In its September action, Overland Park imposed the regulations that firearms could be openly carried in public places as long as the weapons are holstered, the safety is engaged and they are within a person’s immediate control. The city regulations apply to all public places except buildings that have signs prohibiting weapons.

Council member Jim Hix, chairman of the public safety committee, said the open carry ordinance prompted a strong negative public reaction over the idea of seeing people walking the streets with guns strapped to their sides.

“We heard loud and clear. It was not popular with the citizens,” he said.

Overland Park resident Ed Rowe, who spoke at the meeting Wednesday, said he was among those who would not feel safer seeing armed citizens at a mall or other public setting.

“I think we need more restrictions, not fewer,” Rowe said. “I hope you will tighten the rules.”

Some people were upset that the city ordinance, which took effect Oct. 2, did not require the same type of training and licensing that the state requires for those who can carry a concealed weapon.

Rowe’s wife, Lee Rowe, who also spoke, said she was one of them.

“I want people to be both trained and vetted,” she said. “I don’t think I’m irrational.”

Hix said it was that kind of negative public reaction that led him to propose adding regulations to the open carry ordinance that would mirror the state’s concealed carry law.

“My personal opinion is that it would be reasonable to have people meet the same criteria as concealed carry,” he said.

He asked the city’s legal department to review adding additional regulations.

City Attorney Mike Santos said Wednesday that the legal department thinks that the proposal to impose restrictions like those for concealed carry would not conflict with the attorney general’s previous opinion on open carry.

But Santos said it would be “prudent” to allow the legal staff time to more fully research the legal issues. He said one “frailty” in the proposed approach is that it would preclude those aged 18 to 20 from carrying weapons because the concealed carry law requires license holders to be at least 21. Open carry rules allow those 18 or older to carry weapons.

Santos suggested that if the council wanted to permit people 18 to 20 to carry weapons, it could adopt a separate city ordinance for them that would mirror the state law on concealed carry.

The state’s concealed carry law was enacted by the Legislature in 2006 after its override of a veto by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

To get a concealed carry permit in Kansas, applicants must be U.S. citizens, submit to a background check and complete an eight-hour training course.

It prohibits licenses for some people, including those convicted of felonies or domestic violence misdemeanors, wanted fugitives, subjects of protection or restraining orders or people adjudged to be mentally ill.