The suits against Prairie Village and Leawood’s open carry bans: FAQ

Photo via Flickr user Teknorat. Taken in Ohio.
Photo via Flickr user Teknorat. Taken in Ohio.

Since the Kansas Libertarian Party filed suit against Prairie Village and Leawood last week challenging their bans on openly carrying loaded weapons on public property, we’ve gotten a number of emails about what the suit means, and how the court case will move forward. We’ll try to answer the most common questions below:

Why are Prairie Village and Leawood being sued, and not other cities in the area?

Simply put, Prairie Village and Leawood have explicitly made it illegal to openly carry firearms. Other cities have not. The gist of the Libertarians’ case is that the ordinances in PV and Leawood violate state statute.

Every year, each city in Kansas must adopt a “Public Offense Code” that lays out what activities are illegal within the city limits. The Public Offense Codes adopted by the city councils in Prairie Village and Leawood include revisions to the the League of Kansas Municipalities’ standard language about carrying and brandishing weapons. The standard language does not explicitly ban openly carrying a weapon on most public property.

For example, Prairie Village’s code includes the following among its list of prohibited activities:

Carrying any pistol, revolver, shotgun, rifle or other firearm with similar characteristics, concealed or exposed on or about the person, or in or on any part or area of any air, land or water vehicle unless the pistol, revolver or other firearm is unloaded and encased in a container that completely encloses the pistol, revolver or other firearm, except when on the person’s land or in the persons’ abode or fixed place of business.”
[Section 10.1(a)(4) the Uniform Public Offense Code as amended by Section 11-107 of the Prairie Village Code.]

Section 10.1(a)(4) does not apply to any person carrying a concealed weapon as authorized by Kansas Statutes KSA 75-7c01 through 75-7c17 (statute authorizing conceal carry with a conceal carry permit).
[Section 10.1(e) of the Uniform Public Offense Code as amended by Section 11-107 of the Prairie Village Code.]

With that language, Prairie Village makes it illegal to openly carry a firearm on public property. However, the Libertarian party’s suit claims that the state statute governing the regulation of firearms does not allow an outright ban on openly carrying firearms. Instead, they say, the statute allows cities only to regulate the “manner” in which a person openly carries a firearm. They claim an opinion by District Attorney Derek Schmidt supports their case. Here’s the applicable state statute:

“12-16,124. Firearms and ammunition; regulation by city or county, limitations
(a) No city or county shall adopt any ordinance, resolution or regulation, and no agent of any city or county shall take any administrative action, governing the purchase, transfer, ownership, storage or transporting of firearms or ammunition, or any component or combination thereof. Except as provided in subsection (b) and subsection (a) of K.S.A. 75-7c11, and amendments thereto, any such ordinance, resolution or regulation adopted prior to the effective date of this 2007 act shall be null and void.
(b) Nothing in this section shall:…
(2) prohibit a city or county from regulating the manner of openly carrying a loaded firearm on one’s person; or in the immediate control of a person, not licensed under the personal and family protection act while on property open to the public;

If the Libertarian party wins the case, where could people openly carry a loaded firearm?

Any piece of public property not otherwise outlawed in the Kansas statute. The state law allows cities to ban all firearms on the premises of police stations and city halls. Otherwise, the city would have to allow the open carry of weapons at city parks, along public city streets, and public facilities, like the swimming pool or community center.

The owners of private property, like shopping centers and office buildings, however, can ban all weapons on their premises if they so desire.

Who will decide the case?

The case is currently assigned to Judge David W. Hauber in Johnson County District Court. Hauber was appointed to the Tenth Judicial District by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in 2008. He lives in Shawnee.

What’s the timeframe for the case?

Prairie Village and Leawood have 21 days to file a response to the suit, though there is an automatic 14-day extension if necessary. As for when the cities will actually have their day in court, it’s impossible to say at this point.