Overland Park council approves open carry of guns - KCTV5

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Overland Park council approves open carry of guns

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OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) -

One day after Overland Park voted to change the rules on carrying a gun in the open, the city is dealing with some questions.

The Overland Park city council voted 11-1 Monday night to allow residents to openly carry their handguns in most public places for the first time.

The move comes after the state legislature passed a law essentially making it illegal for cities to restrict gun owners from carrying their weapons openly in public. The state attorney general recently confirmed the validity of the law.

City Councilwoman Donna Owens initially had her reservations about the provision but said they simply had no choice to fall into line with state directives.

Councilman Paul Lyons cast the lone dissenting vote.

"I don't believe allowing the carrying of open weapons is an image we want to project. We were just voted one of the top 10 cities in the country, and I don't believe this matches that," Lyons said.

There's a lot of confusion about what the city did and why. Many people thought it was a dramatic change in city law when, in reality, the city was just complying with state law that's been in place for quite some time.

Overland Park City employees spent most of the day Tuesday answering questions from residents concerned about the city's decision to allow people to openly carry their handguns in many public places.

"They're calling the police department. They're calling the city manager's office. They're calling the switchboard as well as contacting us using emails. We're hearing from a number of people - more than usual - we'll put it that way," said Overland Park Communications Manager Sean Reilly.

Reilly said most of those people contacting the city are concerned about how the ordinance change may affect their safety.

"I heard from a mother from KCMO who doesn't want to bring her kids to Overland Park any longer for fear of any safety issues she may perceive," Reilly said.

But the communications manager said what happened the night before won't likely change much in Overland Park.

"There's not going to be a prevalence of individuals with guns in their holster. Some cities in the area already allow that," he said.

In fact, Monday night's vote just reverses a decision made by Overland Park five years ago to restrict guns from openly being carried - a move the City Council knew it must make after the state attorney general struck down a similar gun restriction in Wichita last year.

"What the ordinance allows is for the people to do open carry only in open spaces such as a park," Reilly said.

Antioch Park is one such open space, and mothers walking around the area Tuesday had differing opinions about what they think of the gun-carrying change.

"At least I know they're there as opposed to them being hidden," Dorothy Miller of Mission, KS, said.

"You know at a place like this it might be a little intimidating for children to see them carrying them out in the open like this," said another mother who didn't want to be identified.

However, there are restrictions. The handgun must be in a holster with the safety engaged.

But guns, concealed or openly displayed within a holster, are still not allowed in many places. Government buildings are off limits and so are private businesses where state-approved placards are placed, like schools. For other businesses - and there are a lot of them around town - who don't currently have a placard, but don't want patrons walking in with guns, the city suggests they too post a gun-banning sign.

"Anyone who has a placard, you cannot take that gun inside that building," Reilly said.

KCTV5's Jami Brinton spoke to a couple of state senators who represent Overland Park to see if there's enough concern about the complex issue that state lawmakers might consider altering state law. Both senators said they expect some people to be upset by it but don't expect the issue to go any further.

The new Overland Park ordinance goes into effect on Tuesday.

Police Chief John Douglass vows to follow and enforce whatever ordinances are on the books, but he has concerns for public safety.

"It will be met with disappointment with people who are afraid of firearms. I have reservations about the addition of firearms, whether it's a good idea or not," Douglass said.

The state law was passed in 2007, and over the summer, the city of Wichita asked for clarification. That is when the state attorney general issued an opinion saying cities needed to change their ordinances to fit the state law.

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