JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) Visitors to the Missouri Capitol may not be required to pass through metal detectors and X-ray machines before entering the building next year.
A House Budget Committee stripped funding for the security measures from the state budget it advanced this week and instead authorized the Missouri Capitol police to hire five more officers.
The security measures, which were installed in January, are unpopular with most lawmakers, especially after Gov. Eric Greitens lifted a ban on the concealed carry of weapons in the Statehouse, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/2oL5Y8J ).
“If you’re allowing firearms into the building, then why have the metal detectors?” said state Sen. Jason Holsman, a Kansas City Democrat. “All you’re doing is inconveniencing schoolkids and other visitors to the building without actually making anyone any safer.”
Before the security measures were implemented, lawmakers, employees and visitors used numerous unlocked doors to enter and leave the Missouri Capitol. The Statehouse was protected by armed Capitol police and video surveillance cameras.
The Capitol installed metal detectors after the Sept. 11 attacks, but they were removed in 2003 to save money. Last fall, at the urging of former Gov. Jay Nixon, the state spent $415,000 to buy three pass-through metal detectors, 25 hand-held metal-detector wands and equipment for electronic badge scanners at locked doors. They were to be implemented Jan. 18.
Greitens ordered the new security put in place on Jan. 10, the day after he took office, and included funding for the new security in his proposed state budget.
Signs then went up prohibiting firearms in the Capitol, but Greitens lifted the ban after objections were raised.
Before the signs were removed, Rep. Nick Marshall, a Parkville Republican, put up a sign on his office offering to lend a gun to anyone with a concealed-carry permit. He argued that the gun ban violated state law.
Marshall said he now hopes the new security checkpoints will be gone by the next legislative session.
“The whole spectacle of it, to see schoolchildren or my constituents patted down and treated like they did something wrong,” he said. “This is the people’s building, and they should be able to come and go with freedom.”
State Sen. Jeanie Riddle, a Jefferson City Republican who chairs the joint legislative committee on Capitol security, said she’s reserving judgment on the issue.
“We should look at what’s working and what problems people are experiencing,” she said. “We’re giving it a chance to run its course and see if there are any problems that need to be corrected.”
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com
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