- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2002

After rushing to post metal detectors at entrances to state capitols after September 11, some states are now realizing that there's nothing their security guards can do about many of the people who are carrying firearms into the buildings.
Right-to-carry and concealed-carry laws in many states specifically grant residents the right to have a gun in public spaces and in many cases those laws apply to states' capitols.
That's exactly what's happened in Kentucky, where the state constitution specifically grants residents the right to carry an unconcealed firearm in public and where state law allows permit holders to carry one concealed. Visitors who carry weapons into the Capitol are simply waived through after they are checked out.
Now one state lawmaker thinks the detectors should be done away with.
"It is absolutely a waste of money as far as I'm concerned," says state Rep. Robert R. Damron, a Democrat from Nicholasville, Ky., just south of Lexington. "It's an overreaction. The whole process 90 percent of all the security measures we're going through in the country are overreactions. And, to me, then we've let the terrorists win."
In the rush to evaluate and secure their capitols following September 11, states are trying to balance protection with public access.
"The states are kind of moving slowly on this because they're concerned about making sure the public always has access to their building,"said Kae M. Warnock, an analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures.
One popular fix is to use metal detectors. Before September 11 only two states Georgia and Alabama regularly made capitol visitors pass through a metal detector to enter their capitols, according to the NCSL. But since the terrorist attacks, 13 other states have set up detectors at building entrances.
In Virginia, visitors used to have to pass through metal detectors before entering the House and Senate chambers, where weapons were prohibited by rule of the chamber clerks. Now they must pass through detectors just to enter the buildings, but there is no prohibition on possessing a gun in the building, capitol police said.
When someone carrying a concealed firearm sets off the detector, guards ask a few questions and, as long as the person is carrying it legally, he is allowed to pass.
That's not the case everywhere. Most states, including Maryland prohibit weapons in the capitols.
In Utah, the issue of where those with permits can carry weapons is heating up as officials plan for the legislative session and for the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Earlier this month a state commission came up with a rule to allow those with permits to carry concealed weapons in the Capitol as long as the building isn't under the highest state of alert. But one official said they haven't ruled out having security follow those with weapons.

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