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Manatee County employees will soon be able to carry concealed firearms at work

The policy would allow any of the county's roughly 2,000 employees to carry a concealed firearm while on the job
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Posted at 7:36 AM, Jul 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-26 18:29:36-04

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Manatee County employees could soon have the option to carry concealed firearms while on the job. On Tuesday, commissioners voted in favor of the measure, but still need to work out the details.

County commissioners debated policy, which was first proposed by Commissioner James Satcher in a lengthy May 10 meeting.

“Gun Free Zones should be called ‘Criminal Empowerment Zones.’ Basically, just let the bad guys know exactly where to target,” Satcher said at the time.

Satcher’s policy would allow any of the county's roughly 2,000 employees to carry a concealed firearm while on the job, as long as they hold a Florida Concealed Weapon License legally and aren’t violating any other superseding laws.

Protestors lined the street in front of the Manatee County administration building, protesting allowing county employees to carry guns.

"We feel that adding more guns to our community in public places, makes our community less safe," said Ginger McCallum a volunteer with Moms Demand Action.

Even though Satcher said there wasn't a particular incident that prompted his proposal, he said it’s designed to make sure all employees are as safe as commissioners.

"It is important that in a world where we know there are people out there who intend harm, that we allow the good guys and girls to come ready for that challenge if they choose to," said Satcher.

Once passed, nearly 2,000 county employees will be allowed to carry guns while on the job, as long as they hold a Florida concealed weapon license, and follow other carrying laws and guidelines.

But most people who showed up at Tuesday's meeting were against it and voiced their opinions including commissioner Reggie Bellamy.

"We need security protocols, we need screenings and we need reform. We do not need to put ourselves in a situation where we open our citizens and we open our staff up to the wild wild west," said Bellamy.

In the May meeting, even though some commissioners seemed supportive of the idea, others questioned how it would be implemented, how it would work, and whether it’s warranted in the first place.

“To me, this is a puzzle,” said Commissioner Misty Servia. “This is a puzzle with many pieces. And this is not a 10-piece puzzle; this is a 1,000-piece puzzle.”

In a July 15 memo to commissioners, County Attorney William Clague writes, while the policy would be constitutional, “if the Board chooses to proceed with a policy change to allow concealed carry of firearms, it should do so with the understanding that, depending on how the policy is structured and administered, it could give rise to the additional liabilities and insurance costs.”

Ginger McCallum, a resident who is also a volunteer with Moms Demand Action, offered her thoughts on the policy.

“Guns don’t belong in the workplace — in any workplace,” she tells ABC Action News. “I feel — and many others feel — that it’s a dangerous idea that would harm our county — the employees, citizens, and the reputation of our county — that it’ll create a hostile workplace with the threat of accidental or even intentional injury from gun violence.”

McCallum said she hasn’t heard any county employees voice safety concerns that would warrant such a policy change. Instead, she suspects the policy change is being driven by politics.

“To me, it’s completely politics, but I can’t presume to know why Commissioner Satcher thought it was necessary to bring this up,” McCallum said. “I mean, is our county workplace inherently dangerous? Is the sheriff’s department not doing its job?”

But despite those objections, most commissioners said they are strong supporters of the second amendment.

Manatee County commissioners voted 6 to 1 in favor of moving forward with employees carrying guns. However, first, they want options brought to them by the county attorney and county administrator to vote on whether they will have some stipulations on carrying guns or just follow general Florida laws on concealed carry.

Commissioners plan to vote on the language of the new law within the next 30 days.