Bowling Green commission OKs lifting concealed weapon ban in city buildings

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Bowling Green city commissioners approved by a 4-1 vote Tuesday lifting a ban on carrying concealed weapons in city buildings.

Commissioners voted 3-2 to eliminate the portion of a city ordinance that prohibits the carrying of concealed weapons into city buildings at their Dec. 19 meeting, and with little discussion, the motion was finalized Tuesday.

When the motion was presented, commissioner Rick Williams clarified that Kentucky law still prohibits the carrying of concealed weapons into meetings of governing bodies, such as city commission meetings.

Commissioner Brian "Slim" Nash, who voted against lifting the ban both times, has questioned the wisdom of allowing concealed weapons into meetings where contentious issues are being discussed.

After Williams clarified state law, Nash also noted that the ban pertains to governing bodies, and thus concealed carry would now be allowed at other meetings, such as of the planning commission, which also take place in City Hall.

With no other discussion, the motion to lift the ban was approved, with Joe Denning changing his "no" vote on Dec. 19 to a yes. Denning had also cited safety concerns in voting no at the previous meeting. Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson and commissioners Williams and Sue Parrigin also voted to lift the ban.

In a previous interview with the Daily News, Wilkerson said safety concerns from city staff prompted him to propose the change, saying it came about after “city staff had been asking about the issue (out of) some desire to have a level of protection.”

He said more than one city employee had approached him about the ordinance, saying they had concealed weapon permits and didn’t want to walk around openly carrying a weapon.

Before Tuesday's regular city commission meeting, commissioners held a special meeting to discuss “pending litigation” regarding the initial development of the downtown parking garage wrap.

A civil suit filed by the city regarding the development was dismissed earlier this month. The city filed the suit in U.S. District Court in September and alleged that developers Mills Family Realty and Bowling Green businessman Rick Kelley violated federal racketeering laws, engaged in fraud, breach of contract and civil conspiracy. The suit was dismissed Dec. 20 by U.S. Chief District Judge Joseph McKinley, who determined the city failed to establish how it had been damaged by the alleged use by Mills Family Realty and Kelley of bond proceeds.

The city can appeal McKinley’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit or refile its claims in Warren Circuit Court.

The Tuesday meeting was moved to a closed session, meaning the discussion was not open to the public, and no action was taken. The city commission next meets Jan. 16.

Also at Tuesday's regular meeting, commissioners voted unanimously on a first reading to revise the city's panhandling law.

City Attorney Gene Harmon has been working on revising the city’s current laws regarding panhandling and solicitation in light of recent court rulings that such activities are to a large extent free speech activities protected by the First Amendment.

Proposed revisions were discussed at a city commission work session Dec. 19 resulting in the proposed ordinance on Tuesday’s commission meeting agenda.

The ordinance defines banned activities — such as “aggressive panhandling” where a person fears for their safety — with much of the same language as the current city ordinance.

One change is in requiring anyone engaged in passive panhandling or charitable or political solicitation for more than two consecutive days, or four days total in a calendar year, to obtain a permit from the Bowling Green Police Department.

The permit would be free and valid for two years. Anyone violating the permit requirement would be subject to a fine of up to $250.