Roeland Park, Kan. - With its budget stretched to the limit already, the city of Roeland Park had little choice Thursday night but to decide to allow concealed weapons to be carried in all public buildings by a July 1 deadline required by a new state law.
The law, signed by Governor Sam Brownback in April, requires all municipalities in Kansas to either secure public buildings – everything from city hall to rec centers – to keep any and all weapons out, or allow concealed carry license holders to bring in their weapons.
In recent weeks, larger cities including Lawrence and Prairie Village have asked the state for an extra six months to determine at which of their buildings they may want to install additional security. The security comes at a cost of roughly $42,000 per building.
In Roeland Park, where the likely departure of a Walmart that provides the city's largest source of tax revenue has blown a whole in future budgets, the council knew such costly security measures were not an option.
"In order to do anything to come close to any type of security is going to be tremendously expensive, and we could spend a lot of time trying to develop a safety plan," said Rex Taylor, the city's chief of police. "We didn't want to develop a safety plan saying we're going to do something when clearly we weren't going to be able to."
Some city council members said they were frustrated by what they saw as an unfunded mandate from the state.
"I know how they feel when the federal government puts unfunded mandates upon them, and we have the same feeling now," said councilman Marek Gliniecki of state legislators who passed the bill.
Officials in Roeland park said they do not think the expanded opportunities for concealed carry in the city pose any public danger.
"People that carry a concealed handgun that are licensed to do that have gone through background checks," said Taylor. "They're not the ones that you're really concerned about when you're thinking about the harm that someone can do with a handgun in a meeting."