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Planning Board looks at guns again

Allowing people with concealed carry permits to bring guns onto county property has become a more complicated — and perhaps expensive — matter than the Rowan County Planning Board first thought.
The board voted in March to recommend commissioners move forward with such a change in policy, in keeping with new state laws. The recommendation included taking down no-gun stickers at county buildings and putting up signs saying concealed carry was allowed in parks, except at school-related events.
But at least one board member expressed concern that the changes might send the wrong message to people who want to openly carry firearms into county buildings. And county department heads have asked for changes in personnel policy, increased training and even metal detectors before citizens and employees are allowed to carry concealed guns into their offices.
The planning board will consider these issues at its meeting 7 p.m. Monday in the commissioners’ meeting room at 130 W. Innes St.
In a memo to board members, Planning Director Ed Muire said a question raised by member Larry Jones prompted discussion with the county attorney. Jones questioned if the absence of signs at county buildings would give the impression that open carry was also allowed. Muire is recommending some text amendments to clarify the point.
The department heads’ concerns are more complex. Muire’s memo says six of them were called together, from the sheriff to the head of Social Services, to discuss the amended ordinance.
Allowing the public and employees to carry concealed handguns in county buildings and on county land raised concerns about the lack of policies, training, procedures and enforcement.
“In particular,” Muire said, “these concerns are heightened for an agency such as DSS where employees routinely interact with abusive and neglectful caregivers…” Allowing concealed weapons might not be appropriate for all departments.
“(T)he directors desire to balance the safety and liabilities of employees and the general public with their constitutional rights and freedoms,” the memo says.
The directors offered these recommendations:
Immediate actions
1. As mandated by state law, allow for concealed carry of handguns in county-owned parks by amending the county code.
2. Hire a law firm specializing in such issues to develop a comprehensive policy that accommodates employees and the general public while also advising of liability concerns.
Short term (4-6 months)
1. Delay implementation of allowing concealed carry on county property until Item 2 is finalized.
2. Provide appropriate signs acknowledging the status of concealed carry and other weapons.
3. Provide funding for workplace violence training, self-defense training and recognition of potential threats.
4. Let directors and supervisors have a law enforcement officer present, if they want, during dismissals and disciplinary hearings.
Long term (12-24 months)
1. Provide metal detectors in all county-owned buildings to allow for valid concealed carry handguns and prevent others from being carried in.
2. Provide law enforcement officers at the metal detector stations.
Rip Kersey is chairman of the Planning Board. Other members are Darlene Blount, Joe Coladarci, Blake Jarman, Larry Jones (vice chair), Steve Poteat, Joe Teeter, Reid Walters and Larry Wright.

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