Buildings can be exempted until 2014

Chief 13th District Judge Larry T. Solomon has asked commissioners in Barber, Harper, Kingman and Pratt counties to cooperate in keeping guns out of district and ancillary courtrooms in the district.

In a letter dated May1, Solomon said he was writing commissioners to express his extreme concern about Senate Substitute for House Bill No. 2052 ("Concealed Carry" Law), which was signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback on April 16th. This law will take effect July 1st, unless the county commission requests an exemption.

"Basically, the new law will allow anyone with a concealed carry permit to carry a firearm into the courthouse and into district courtrooms, unless the courthouse has mandatory screening (by detectors or security officers) of all persons entering the courthouse," wrote Solomon. "The bill allows the Chief Judge of the Judicial District to bar weapons from the courthouse only if 'other means of security are employed such as armed law enforcement or armed security officers.'"

According to the legislation "adequate security measures" means the use of electronic equipment and personnel at public entrances to detect and restrict the carrying of any weapons into the state or municipal building

Adequate security measures for storing and securing lawfully carried weapons, including, but not limited to, the use of gun lockers or other similar storage options must be provided at public entrances.

"Subsection (1) allows the county commission to exempt a building from the act until Jan. 1, 2014, by notifying the Kansas Attorney General and the local law enforcement agencies of the county," wrote Solomon. "The county must develop a security plan for the building exempted which supplies 'adequate security.' I believe this standard is less stringent than metal detectors and armed guards.

"In Kingman County, the court has six 'panic buttons' to alert law enforcement of a problem," continued Solomon. "Additionally, law enforcement is next door to the courthouse, if not in the courthouse. We also have an 'Active Shooter' plan and closed circuit cameras. I believe that Barber, Harper, and Pratt counties also have similar options currently."

Solomon went on to say the entire courthouse could be considered to be at risk for violence in this day and age.

"I believe it is fair to say that judges, court employees, and attorneys are the most likely candidates for violence in a courthouse," wrote Solomon. "You don't read about someone walking into a courthouse and shooting the county clerk or county appraiser."

Solomon asked commissioners to:

• request the exemption set forth and stated he and other local judges would be glad to work with commissioners to develop the necessary security plan.

• consider establishing electronic screening for the public entrances to the courthouse, so you can permanently prohibit weapons in the courthouse.

• consider hiring an extra armed law enforcement officer or armed security guard to patrol the district court floors, so I can ban weapons in the district court if you are unwilling to establish electronic screening.

"I understand that the second and third options will cost money, but I would ask — what is one life worth?" wrote Solomon.

Rough estimates are that the costs associated with completely meeting the requirements of the legislation could initially be several hundred thousand dollars, with additional costs for salaries for security personnel running up to $200,000 annually, according to Sheriff Vernon Chinn.