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New JoCo group leading effort to make more private property gun-free zones
Overland Park’s decision in September to lift its ban on openly carrying firearms has led to growth of a phenomenon that pro-gun groups cite as a threat to public safety: gun-free zones.
A new Johnson County advocacy group called The Gun Violence Prevention Project has been making door-to-door visits to Overland Park businesses and offering them the “No Guns” signs that prohibit anyone from bringing firearms — concealed or openly carried — onto their private property. The state laws governing firearms cannot prevent private property owners from setting rules restricting guns on their premises.
Group chair Loren Stanton, a former Johnson County Sun reporter, says a total of 102 businesses are posting new “No Guns” signs based on their efforts. Group members counted an additional 56 businesses that already had similar signs posted. Stanton also notes that several large commercial and religious properties throughout the county — including Oak Park Mall and the Sprint Campus — are gun-free zones as well.
In the gun control debate that has intensified in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre of 20 schoolchildren and six adults, gun rights proponents have frequently argued that gun-free zones serve as an invitation to mentally unstable persons seeking to inflict maximum damage. The Clackamas Town Center mall in Oregon and movie theater in Aurora, Colo., they point out, were both gun-free zones.
But, says Stanton, many local business owners think openly carried firearms should not be a welcome part of the community.
“It is clear from the response that the prevailing sentiment in the small business community and the Overland Park community in general is that open carry is unwanted,” Stanton said.
Moreover, he said, guns carried out in the open can cause unnecessary anxiety for people just going about their business.
“What it does do is make many law-abiding people terribly uneasy, and understandably so. How can anyone know that any person wearing a sidearm is one of the ‘good guys’?” Stanton said.
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