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County seeks gun ban extension
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A lot of questions swirl around the recently passed revised state statute that would allow concealed weapons in public buildings. Those questions lead the Barton County Commission Monday morning to approve submitting a letter to Attorney General’s Office requesting a six-month exemption from the law.
The debate is over sections of House Bill 2052 which would allow the weapons. This would supersede the county’s current ban, said County Administrator Richard Boeckman.
“There is a lot of uncertainty,” Boeckman said. “This will give us some breathing room.”
The statute goes into effect July 1. If no action is taken, Boeckman said concealed weapons must be allowed on county property.
The letter gives the county time to study the issue. Come Jan. 1, 2014, should the county want to maintain its ban, it would have to commit to developing a security plan within four years.
This plan, which must include more than signs stating a building is gun-free, is also a point of contention. “This is going to get expensive before it’s over,” said Sheriff Brian Bellendir.
Public entities could install metal detectors or have employees use metal-detecting wands. Both would also require the addition of personnel.
Then, what county buildings would be included? Officials said it would be costly to install the devices and post deputies at each facility.
The issued stirred a lot of discussion Monday.
“It’s a good idea to sit back and look at it for six months,” said Mike Keeley, chief judge for the 20th Judicial District which includes Barton County. Even if the weapons are allowed in municipal buildings, judges may have the authority to ban them from their courtrooms.
But, said Commission Chairman Don Cates, there are other places that could be problems. “There are a lot of areas where emotions run high,” such as the Treasurer’s Office or County Clerk’s Office.
Cates said the matter will most certainly spark continued discussion as the countdown to the end of the year commences.
In the meantime, Keeley said, maybe the Legislature will revisit the law in a year or two, making it easier to follow.