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County contends with concealed gun law

By Corene Brisendine

The plan is business as usual. County commissioners didn’t exactly go out on a limb while deciding how to secure county buildings — now required as part of a new state law.

County counselor Clancy Holeman said the commission didn’t have to actually secure all the buildings, but they did have to have a plan “on file” by Jan. 1.

Commissioner Bob Boyd said that plan could be simply to operate the county courthouse as it does now for the next four years.

According to the state law, local governing bodies have until Jan. 1 to draw up a plan for securing all buildings in which they intend to prohibit firearms. After that, the buildings must be secured with armed guards and scanners to ensure no person is bringing weapons inside.

“American society has dictated the TSA model is the one we are going to follow,” Boyd said.

Chief Judge Meryl Wilson told commissioners that he didn’t think the courts needed to be secured all day, every day. He said the only time there may be a threat is when handing down sentences.

He said the courts currently require an extra officer present during hearings — for protection from abuse or stalking — and during probation hearings. He said other times are determined on a case-by-case basis.

Wilson asked the commission to require an extra officer in the courtroom when needed. He said that would be cheaper than securing the entire building.

He said preliminary estimates to secure the courthouse run about $800,000.

He also said that about 300 people come through the courthouse each day, but about 500 people come inside when there is a trial in session. However, he said 99 percent of those people are not there to cause trouble.

Joe Knopp, local attorney, told commissioners all that security was not going to stop someone from doing something crazy.

“We can’t make our malls safe; we can’t make our airport security safe; we can’t make our theaters safe,” he said. “It’s not normal people, but some crazy that decides to shoot somebody.”

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