Kobach seeks opinion on guns at polling places

11/4/2013

TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has asked Attorney General Derek Schmidt for a ruling on whether a new state law allowing concealed carry in most public buildings includes polling places.

TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has asked Attorney General Derek Schmidt for a ruling on whether a new state law allowing concealed carry in most public buildings includes polling places.

Polling sites in Kansas are often found in places where guns are not usually allowed, such as churches, schools, universities and charity organizations, The Wichita Eagle reported. Guns have also been prohibited as a general rule from polling places to prevent voter intimidation or interference with elections, Kobach said.

But there is "some ambiguity in the law" over whether Kansas polling places would be considered "leased" property under the new concealed-carry law. If they are, the law says licensed gun owners must be allowed to carry their weapons on the premises, unless the county files a detailed security plan for each site and provides protective measures such as metal detectors and guards to run them.

"We've invited the attorney general to weigh in before we issue any guidance to the counties," Kobach told the newspaper.

Public officials can request an attorney general's opinion on legal questions that haven't been decided by a court. The opinions aren't considered law but can be used as guidance until an issue is tested.

Brad Bryant, elections director in the Secretary of State's Office, gave election commissioners and county clerks from around Kansas an update on the issue during a recent convention in Wichita.

"Our understanding right now is that a building, a facility, that is owned or leased by a municipality, including for a polling place, would be subject to the (concealed carry) law," he said. "When you lease a private property, it becomes a municipal property on Election Day, that's our understanding."

Rep. Tom Sawyer of Wichita, ranking Democrat on the House elections committee, said there could be difficulties in finding polling sites if weapons have to be allowed. He said some churches and nonprofit groups that open their property for voting sites may have second thoughts if they have to allow guns.

"It's hard enough as it is to come up with a building that's going to be open all day and that's handicapped-accessible," he said.

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