Rowland’s gun idea deserves to be shot down

Keeping public buildings safe and secure, both for the employees who work in them and the citizens who visit, is one of the most important responsibilities of government. And the task has, without question, gotten more difficult in recent decades.

But Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland’s shoot-from-the-hip solution to potential security concerns at the old county courthouse is decidedly off target.

Her initial suggestion, during a discussion about potential security threats at the courthouse, was to say that county employees “should get a conceal-carry permit” — a permit that allows them to carry concealed weapons.

Later, Rowland maintained she wasn’t advocating that the county give all of its employees weapons, only that if some employees obtain concealed-carry permits and feel more comfortable carrying weapons at work, the county should allow them to do so.

But either way, Rowland’s plan doesn’t really address the county security concerns. Her idea won’t “take care of it,” as she suggested.

We understand the thinking behind Rowland’s argument. In numerous articles and books such as John Lott’s “More Guns, Less Crime,” gun experts have argued that allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons acts as a deterrent to crime in the general population.

There is statistical evidence to support that argument, and it is one reason this newspaper supported legislation to create Colorado’s uniform concealed carry law.

But there is little to indicate that allowing public employees to carry concealed weapons in public buildings will improve security in those buildings.

Consider the incident that prompted the recent county discussion about security. An angry county resident confronted a clerk in the county administration area of the old courthouse and made the clerk feel threatened. If the clerk had a concealed-carry permit, would the situation have been improved? Would she have drawn her weapon and commanded, “On the floor, dirtbag. You’re out of line!” to the angry resident? Would the possibility of such a response make either county employees or citizens visiting the courthouse feel more secure?

To obtain a concealed-carry permit, a person is required to undergo some training in the law and in the handling of handguns. But to deal with a situation such as the one described here, one needs the kind of training given to police officers. Is the county willing to pay for that sort of training for all of its employees?

The best answer to security questions at county buildings is unfortunate but obvious. It is to install metal detectors and police security at one or more entrances to county buildings. That’s what is being done at public buildings from Colorado’s state Capitol to the Mesa County Justice Center. Before the new Justice Center was built, it was also used for a few years at the old county courthouse.

We sincerely hope that the security situation hasn’t reached the point that airport-style checkpoints are required to enter all county buildings. Perhaps having a uniformed officer patrolling the building during business hours would be a better solution for now.

If more security is needed, those are both far better solutions than hoping some unknown number of county employees are packing heat and trained well enough to use their weapons when an emergency arises.


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