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County loosens restrictions on where employees with a concealed weapon license can carry

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At the May 8, 2018 Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) regular meeting, the board voted unanimously to allow county workers with valid Concealed Weapon License, commonly known as a “concealed carry” to have their firearms in their possession while conducting county business.   Chairman Steve Champion began the discussion by reviewing his directive to the appropriate staff to “Look at surrounding counties and the actions they’ve had regarding policies that go above and beyond what the state law requires regarding concealed weapon holders.”

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Champion, a proponent of reducing regulations in all areas said,  “ Why do we need to restrict our law-abiding employees from having their constitutional right?  I believe we all swore on the bible, saying that we would defend the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of Florida.  I tend to uphold that.  I think we need to do what’s right … We’re not advocating for anything… it’s an individual decision, individual right, and you need to know the law, and that’s why you go through training, that’s why you get your permit. You have to acknowledge that you know the law, and if you don’t know the law, you probably shouldn’t carry a weapon.”

Human Resources Director Christy Charlow described the changes to the  “Workplace Violence Policy,” which was modelled after Okaloosa, Lake and Polk counties.  Added to the policy is language that the very nature of the concealed carry law is that a licensee does not reveal that they are armed.  Champion added that Concealed Carry Licensees still cannot take their weapons into prohibited areas such as courthouses and post offices, and does not make any exclusions to the current law.

Commissioner Jeff Holcomb gave a brief list of events that led to the American Revolution.   “The colonists knew what was going on with that king, so they knew what they needed to do to protect themselves … and they wrote that second amendment, specifically designed to deal with tyrannical kings.”   He went on to cite modern applications of the second amendment, giving the policy change his full support.  

Commissioner John Allocco stated he is one-hundred-percent in favor of the second amendment, but had questions about the policy and concerns for specific county workers, primarily code enforcement and emergency services.  “I don’t want employees to be put into a situation where the county won’t be liable … but (the employee) will be, and they lose their career because of something they weren’t aware of.”  

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Champion answered, “That’s not our responsibility.  It’s your responsibility as a concealed weapons holder, and this policy’s been in place since 1791.  If you’re in EMS, you’d better find out if you can carry or not.”   He stated again that the county and its management is not advocating for employees to carry weapons, but it is removing county policies that prevent legal license holders in doing so where it is currently legal.

To Champion’s point, Hernando county resident Cherie Miller said,  “You’re asking me to assume that a county employee who shows up on my property with a gun is a good guy with a gun.  I don’t have any proof or evidence of that.” 

Commissioner Allocco added that a property owner is within their rights to ask anyone to refrain from carrying weapons on their property.  “The first three amendments in the bill of rights are not there to give privileges to citizens.  Those are amendments to tell the government what its not allowed to do.”

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