With a 6-5 vote Monday, the Prairie Village City Council repealed several parts of its city code regulating the carrying of firearms and other weapons, ordinances that would have been unenforceable under HB 2578, signed by Gov. Sam Brownback in April.
“Our home rule authority has been deleted,” said a clearly disappointed Mayor Ron Shaffer after the vote. “Reduced a little by this vote. But we’ll move forward with what we’ve got.”
Prairie Village Police Chief Wes Jordan said after the vote that the changes would pose challenges for his department. The department is in the process of developing a training curriculum for its 47 sworn officers and six dispatchers on how to handle contacts with individuals carrying weapons in the future.
“Trying to train officer on how to approach an armed person now, we’re going to have to go back to the chalk board,” he said.
The issue, he says, is balancing officer safety with citizens’ rights. Officers who stop a car and see a gun sitting on the seat were trained to draw their own weapon so that they aren’t at a disadvantage as they determine why the driver has a gun in the vehicle. Now, officers will need to leave their weapons holstered as they make contact with the individual.
“What we’re training officers is that you have to protect yourself and not be at a disadvantage,” he said. “But the problem is that we may now have a contact that’s legal and we’ve got to make sure that we don’t overreact, but by underreacting we could be exposing ourselves to being vulnerable.”
Jordan said the department was using curriculum from other municipalities that had moved from open carry bans to policies that allow for the open carry of weapons as a basis, and was adapting them to fit Prairie Village. But precisely how the new reality will play out in practice remains to be seen. Jordan noted that two years ago, the department received a call of a young man walking down a major street carrying a machete. The young man turned out to have mental health issues and was off his medications. At the time, police could stop him because it was illegal to openly carry a sword down the street. Come July 1, what the young man was doing won’t be illegal.
Jordan did note that other cities that have moved away from open carry bans had not seen a large increase in incidences of people with weapons in public spaces.
“They just wanted the right to do it, not that they were going to do it,” he said of proponents of open carry.
Councilors Ashley Weaver, Steve Noll, Andrew Wang, Ted Odell and Terrence Gallagher voted in favor of repealing the provisions of the city ordinance. Councilors Jori Nelson, Eric Mikkelson, Brooke Morehead, Dan Runion and Courtney McFadden voted against repeal. Mayor Ron Shaffer broke the tie in favor or repeal. Councilors Ruth Hopkins and Laura Wassmer were absent.
In the debate leading up to the vote, Mikkelson said he was concerned that the city was “overrepealing,” and was taking out provisions of its code that it wouldn’t strictly be required to remove under HB 2578.
Ted Odell said before the vote was called that the state legislature’s decision to strip cities of the ability to regulate firearms was disappointing.
“It saddens me that the state of Kansas has put a city in a position to where they think they know more about our city than we do,” he said.