Should those with a concealed carry license be allowed to carry weapons into government buildings?

The question has generated discussion and debate amongst legislators across the state of Kansas in the past several months. Harvey County will have to make its own decision, and Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton was curious to see what the public thought.

He posted the question on the sheriff's department Facebook page Saturday — a post that has since been viewed by at least 3,900 people and generated more than 300 comments. Though the poll isn't scientific, the majority seemed to be in favor of allowing concealed carry in government buildings such as the courthouse.

"This was just put out there because I know what the legislators said, and I know how the (county) administration feels, but I didn't know how the people who elected me to office felt," Walton said.

In the post, Walton asked for public input, stating a bill passed in the Kansas Legislature would allow carry conceal in the Harvey County Courthouse. An application was made to exempt the courthouse until Dec. 31. If the courthouse decides to keep that exemption, a plan would have to be created to provide security machines and personnel with only one public entrance into the courthouse.

Responses from the public on Walton's Facebook post included:

- "History has shown that security in schools and government buildings (has) been ineffective. The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun ... period!"

- "Personally I would rather the only guns in the courthouse be carried by law enforcement."

- "In general I have no problem with concealed carry, but I do believe that in a courthouse where tensions and emotions can be extreme that legal firearms should not be allowed."

- "I want security but I believe security can be increased through carry conceal."

Full-scale security would require a major remodel of the courthouse, the installation of metal detectors, and the hiring of at least four security officers.

"Someone has to pay for that, and it comes back to the taxpayer," Walton said.

Walton said from a law enforcement perspective, there is some concern that when responding to an emergency and there are multiple people with guns, it can be difficult tell who the "bad guy" is.

"Both become dangerous to me," he said. "It's not just cut and dried — nothing ever is."

He also foresees some complications if judges decide to ban guns in the courtrooms but guns are otherwise allowed in the courthouse.

Walton plans to go through all the responses to the Facebook post and send a report to the county commission.

He said the sheriff's department Facebook page as a whole has generated quite a bit of feedback since it was created in the summer of 2010. The page now has about 2,000 "likes." The page logs about 20,000 views a week, though a recent post about an escaped cow on top of a semi caused the page to generate 66,000 views in a week.

People also can write to the sheriff privately on Facebook and report information on crime suspects or drug activity. These posts aren't visible to the public.

"It's been great, we really enjoy it," Walton said of the Facebook page. "It gets information out to the people, and we get responses. ... We like it to be interactive."

To find the Harvey County Sheriff's Department on Facebook, search for "Harvey County Sheriff's Office."