On July 1, police officers won't be the only public employees packing heat in Kansas.
Firefighters, code enforcement officers and other public employees whose jobs take them out into the community will be allowed to carry concealed weapons after Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed the new controversial gun bill into law.
The new law is meant to help employees of state and local governments defend themselves, according to state Sen. Forrest Knox, who supported the bill.
“Why should a public employer be able to require their employees to be defenseless when they’re outside on the job?” Knox said, according to the Wichita Eagle. Paramedics in particular can “find themselves in pretty precarious situations” and will be safer if they're carrying weapons, Knox told the newspaper.
The new concealed carry law is the latest expansion of gun rights in the state. Laws already on the books allow public employees to carry concealed weapons when they're driving or in their offices, and a 2015 law dropped permit and training requirements for state gun owners, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal.
The law supersedes city and county policies, the Capital-Journal reported, meaning local government leaders won't be able to pass laws restricting the right of public employees to carry within their municipalities.
The law does not impact employees of private companies. School districts are also exempt from the new concealed carry law.
Critics of the bill say it can create headaches and possibly lead to tragedy.
“There’s just no need for public employees to carry guns with the exception of public-safety officers,” Janet Miller, a Wichita city councilwoman, told the Eagle. “It’s possible and probable that gun owners and carriers are inadequately trained to use those weapons and it always opens the door for mistakes that can have deadly consequences.”
State Rep. Annie Tietze, a Democrat, told the Eagle that she's worried the new law could infringe on the rights of property owners. Government at the state and local level could also be held liable if untrained public employees hurt or kill civilians while on the job.
"I'm not saying that any of these people aren't capable," Tietze said. "I'm just saying we don't know for all of these people that they should be handling guns and they will be allowed on your private property."