Major changes to the state's concealed carry laws might mean licensed citizens will be able to carry handguns into state and municipal buildings, which traditionally have banned guns on their premises.
Later this summer, Cowley County commissioners will have discussions regarding the recently passed HB 2052, which modifies the Personal and Family Protection Act to allow the possession of firearms on government property, including state and municipal buildings.
While the law is set to take effect July 1, states and municipalities will have until Jan. 1, 2014, to file an exemption with the state, which will give the entities four years to provide adequate security measures at public building entrances.
Under the new law, Cowley County and the cities within it will have two choices: Come up with a plan and money for security, or simply remove the ubiquitous "no guns allowed" signs from their doors.
"We're still trying to assess what this new concealed carry law is going to mean for the county," said County Administrator Jeremy Willmoth.
While the discussion won't come until later in the summer, Willmoth already is looking at possibilities.
"I'm wanting to get the budget kind of put to bed, and in August, I'll meet with a judge, the sheriff and the (county) attorney, and start brainstorming ideas of what we think is possible," he said.
"Then we'll take that to the commission and see what they think."
For state and municipal offices that want to continue to ban firearms on their premises, there are two major hurdles — the logistics of securing the buildings and finding a way to pay for it.
"To put together a checkpoint, we'd have to shut access to the building down to one door that is handicapped-accessible," Willmoth said.
"We would have to hire a security guard to stand here at least Monday through Friday, 8 to 5, and wand everybody that walks through the door.
"We wouldn't be able to hire just one security guard. We'd need at least another one to fill in for breaks and vacations and such, so we're looking at two, possibly three people."
Add to that county operations in other buildings in Arkansas City and Winfield, and providing adequate security seems more and more difficult to pursue.
"I've got operations in this building, I've got operations across the street, a whole lot of operations on the other side of the street," Willmoth said.
"Now you're talking a million dollars for security at every building.
"When you have 15 facilities, it just seems impractical to try to secure them all."
And then there is the necessary equipment — the X-ray machine and the scanning equipment.
While working in Jackson County, Mo., Willmoth oversaw the purchase of an X-ray machine. Its cost: $250,000.
Though a final decision won't be made right away, the county commission did discuss the issue briefly at its Tuesday night meeting.
Nothing official has been decided, but the tenor of the commissioners seemed to lean toward the simpler option.
"The commission is not interested in raising property taxes," Willmoth said.
"To be fair, let's not make a knee-jerk reaction. Let's take some time and just study it."