The city of Mission has taken steps to ensure compliance with state law after discovering it had an outdated ordinance on the books intended to allow police officers to confiscate firearms and weapons during a declared state of emergency.
Mission officials believe the ordinance would have been deemed unenforceable under state laws which explicitly protect individuals’ rights to keep legally held firearms. City officials said Mission never used the ordinance before it was taken off the books.
Before the council moved to strike it this week, the ordinance had given the mayor the authority to order a law enforcement officer or city employee to “confiscate any items, including alcoholic beverages, firearms, explosives, weapons and combustibles” in “the interest of public safety” during a state of disaster or emergency.
The council Wednesday voted 7-0 to delete “firearms” and “weapons” from that list of items as part of a string of orders city leaders could make in an emergency. Councilmember Ken Davis was absent from the meeting and did not vote.
The ordinance change was part of the council’s adoption of a wholesale updated emergency operations plan for the city.
“All of the changes are within the context of updating the really antiquated emergency plan,” said Emily Randel, public information officer and assistant to the city administrator. “The state statute doesn’t allow the confiscation of firearms anyways, so as we were engaging in a really long overdue update of the emergency management plan, that part came out to be consistent with current law and practice.”
Kansas state law prohibits the temporary or permanent seizure of any firearms in legal possession, except as evidence in a criminal investigation. Up until July 2008, state law permitted the seizure of firearms in a declared state of emergency.
The city first created its emergency operations plan in 2004.
City administrator Laura Smith said the city has never used the ordinance to confiscate firearms and weapons that were otherwise legal.
Mission Police Captain Dan Madden echoed Smith’s statement, adding that one main goal of the emergency operations plan is to ensure that, in a declared state of emergency, Mission would be eligible for financial assistance from the state and federal emergency management agencies.
“I can definitely say that, within the 20 years I’ve been here, if we have declared an emergency, there were never any orders issued as far as the powers of the mayor during an event,” Madden said. “Any of the powers that stem from declaring a state of emergency have never been brought to bear because there hasn’t been an event that would have constituted the need for it.”
The council also voted 7-0 to approve the updated emergency operations plan, simultaneously naming Madden as the city’s new director of emergency management and homeland security.
Police chief Ben Hadley said the council removed the ordinance because it would have violated the residents’ Second Amendment rights.
“Any time that there’s a conflict between the state law and city ordinance, we’re always going to do what’s right, especially when you’re talking about people’s right to bear arms and freedom of speech and things of that nature,” Hadley said.
There was no council discussion or public comment related to the emergency operations plan or ordinance change.