Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt revealed in an opinion issued last Wednesday that residents with a valid concealed carry permit would be allowed to carry firearms into polling places, provided that the building being used allowed guns prior to the voting day.
The opinion was issued at the request of the Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach following confusion over an updated concealed carry law that took effect July 1. According to the updated law, those with a valid concealed carry permit would be allowed to carry firearms into public buildings deemed to have inadequate security measures, such as metal detectors and armed guards.
“We should not tread on their rights while at the same time take no steps to prevent criminals from bringing illegal weapons into public buildings,” State Sen. Forrest Knox, chief architect of the new regulations, said back in June, arguing that the state’s 80,000 concealed carry permit holders help “make all of Kansas safer.”
But not everyone agrees that allowing guns in polling places — regardless of the building in which it’s being conducted — is such a good idea. “That’s scary,” Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau said. “We really are going back to the Wild Wild West.”
Those public buildings could include college campuses and some government buildings. However, they can still seek exemptions which would allow time to increase security while staying in compliance with the law.
The question over whether or not the new law allows firearms in polling places came as a result of a great deal of those polling places generally being buildings that otherwise don’t normally allow guns, such as churches, schools and universities. Additionally, guns have generally been banned from polling places in an effort to reduce voter intimidation or other interference with elections.
“The use of real property as a polling place does not transform the nature of that property for the purposes of the (Personal and Family Protection Act),” Schmidt wrote in his opinion.
The Personal and Family Protection Act was originally passed in 2006, making Kansas the 47th state to permit concealed carry in some form. Kobach notes that there have been no issues with concealed carry and voting since that time, but states that Schmidt’s opinion would help his office and counties to “get ahead of the curve.”
And although the Attorney General’s opinion is not considered law, it can be used as guidance until such time arises that the issue is tested.