The Scott County Fiscal Court took the first steps to allowing the public and employees to carry weapons on county property, including buildings, after a pair of first readings last Friday.
Current ordinances and administrative codes prohibit all weapons on county property, but recent state laws allow open carry which conflicts with the county’s books.
“In my opinion, I would like our court to strongly consider repealing the ordinance,” said County Judge-Executive Joe Pat Covington. “At this time, individuals can open carry in a government building, and it would be very difficult to enforce conceal and carry.”
Sheriff Tony Hampton had discussed the changes with Covington and County Attorney Rand Marshall.
“If you just amend it, I don’t know how you are going to know anyone is carrying concealed unless they tell you. They can open carry anyway, so I favor repealing it,” Hampton said. “We are here on a regular basis, and if the workers feel unsafe they can call us and we will do a walk through. And I think everyone has access to the silent alarm.”
Magistrates Rick Hostetler made the motion and Kelly Corman seconded and the first reading passed unanimously.
The court then took up the administrative code applying to employees.
“Right now we have the same problem that it is not in compliance,” Marshall said. “It is a blanket prohibition against carrying a concealed weapon, which could include a gun or a knife, by an employee in a building or on the ground. I’m not sure you want employees to carry concealed weapons on the job, but that is the choice you have to make. You can repeal it entirely or amend it that they can carry on grounds but not buildings.”
Magistrate Chad Wallace asked about law enforcement, which Marshall said they and others are already exempt.
“We cannot prohibit an employee from open carrying in my opinion, so this goes to concealed and that puts us right back to where we are,” Covington said.
Corman said open carry means an employee could put the gun on their desk, and that might be disconcerting for some in the public coming in to pay their taxes or conduct other business.
“I’ve always been concerned about the signs on the door. Bad guys are not going to read the placard on the door, employee or not. Good guys are going to be knowledgeable,” Hostetler said. “I would rather have some good guys with guns when the bad guys show up. Even as close as the sheriff’s office is, there isn’t a lot of time when something goes down.”
The court approved the first reading unanimously.
“Most responsible gun owners don’t want to advertise it. I carry, but I want to have that surprise on them,” said Magistrate Bernard Palmer. “If someone comes in to do harm, they can step in before back up arrives. I’m not saying they are bad people, but they may have mental issues they are dealing with. When that breaks down, I feel good knowing good, law-abiding citizens have their weapons on them.”
Jailer Derran Broyles also reported on some questions Magistrate Bill Burke had from the last fiscal court meeting when approval for full-time jailers to carry firearms was granted.
Burke wanted to know how many instances there had been of threats made to jailers outside of normal working hours, and Broyles said they couldn’t find any. But 14 county jails in Kentucky issue firearms to jailer deputies in some form, with another five considering such a policy.
Burke also asked if Broyles had considered adding part-time jailers to the list of issuing weapons.
“I thought it may be more digestible by the court to start with full-timers and then maybe consider adding part-timers later. Full-time employees I have a track record with on the experience they are gaining and can gauge their judgment and they stick around. We have a lot of turnover in the part-time employees,” Broyles said.
If a part-timer stayed a reasonable length of time, say six months, would they be considered to be issued for a firearm, Burke suggested.
“I think that is a great recommendation,” Broyles said. “We have a couple of part-timers who have been here several years and have a track record. They go outside the facility with a firearm anyway.”
That change would be brought back in an amendment, Broyles said.
Steve McClain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.