Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Concealed firearms banned in county buildings

by Chris Schultz

December 15, 2011

ELKHORN — The Walworth County Board does not want concealed firearms carried into any of its government buildings.

Signs notifying the public of the ban have been posted at the entrances to all of the county buildings, County Administrator David Bretl said in a recent phone interview.

County Board supervisors approved the policy on a voice vote during the same meeting they approved the county budget. Only Supervisor Randy Hawkins voted against the concealed carry ban.

During debate, Hawkins argued the ban would provide only a false sense of security. He said people with a mind toward violence wouldn’t pay attention to a sign.

Also during the debate, Supervisor David Weber countered that allowing concealed carry might also create a false sense of security.

Bretl said he doesn’t believe signs banning concealed carry would act as an invitation for people to come in armed and primed for mischief.

“Bad guys are going to do what bad guys are going to do with or without a sign,” Bretl said. “What we’re trying to do is establish a sense of security for employees.”

The county’s no concealed carry ordinance covers all county buildings except for the firing range and everyone except on-duty police and military personnel, Bretl said.

Bretl pointed out that before the new concealed carry law was passed, the county banned firearms from its buildings. The ordinance violation carries a fine of up to $1,000, he said.

Under Wisconsin’s concealed carry law, which took effect Nov. 1, qualified citizens who obtain a permit and go through training are allowed to carry concealed weapons, especially firearms, in most public buildings, including the state Capitol and municipal buildings, unless a sign is posted saying they are not permitted.

Bretl and Sheriff David Graves both endorsed a concealed carry ban for county buildings.

A part of Wisconsin’s concealed carry law provides a liability exemption for buildings that do not post signs prohibiting concealed carry.

A facility that is posted “no concealed carry” might be liable if someone ignores the sign and brings in a weapon that later injures someone on the premises.

However, Bretl said he doesn’t believe that part of the law applies to governments or government buildings.

Other provisions in state law provides legislative bodies discretional immunity, meaning they are not liable for legal decisions made after due deliberation, Bretl said.

The County Board’s Executive Committee endorsed the concealed carry ban initially.

However, the County Board had some uncertainty about the concealed carry ban, and there was some citizen resistance to the proposed rule.

The County Board sent the proposed concealed gun ban back to the Executive Committee for reconsideration.

The Executive Committee reasserted its recommendation that firearms be prohibited in county buildings.

At one point during deliberations, Supervisor Jerry Grant, a former Whitewater police officer, wanted to amend the rule to include concealed knives, clubs and electronic weapons (Tasers) to the list of those prohibited within county buildings.

Those were removed from the concealed carry ban when it was pointed out the County Board would have to provide definitions for the knives, clubs and electronic weapons that were being banned.

During debate before passing the ban, Supervisor Dan Kilkenny said he was of two minds on banning concealed handguns.

However, Kilkenny said he finally decided that having people with firearms, concealed or otherwise at a public debate, would be intimidating.

He said he believed a ban on concealed handguns would be more reassuring than coming to meetings with armed citizens in the audience and “wondering whether Administrator Bretl can shoot them before they shoot us.”