MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – Commissioners in Manatee County voted 6-1 on Tuesday, directing the county administrator to work with the sheriff and county attorney to bring back options to amend a policy that would ultimately allow licensed employees to carry concealed weapons while on the job.
If the policy change is approved at a later date, Manatee County would be the 15th county in the state to allow its employees to carry concealed weapons while at work. Some of the others include Brevard, Hernando, Highlands, Lee, Palm Beach and Orange counties.
Commissioner James Satcher first brought up the proposed change in May. He described the current policy as “un-American” in a previous interview with WFLA.
“Gun-free zones end up becoming criminal empowerment zones. They give the bad guys more power than they should to do more harm than they would otherwise be able to do,” said Commissioner Satcher. “At around 2,000 employees, that is a lot of people. Good, law-abiding, rule-following Americans that we are choosing to make sitting ducks if we continue this policy.”
Most commissioners were open to the policy change. Some expressed concerns about liability and wanted to know what county employees have to say about the possibility of guns in the workplace. Commissioner Reggie Bellamy cast the only dissenting vote Tuesday, saying the policy change would open the county up to “a lot of issues.”
“Do not bring gun violence to our community. We have enough of it right now. 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 Commissioner Bellamy.
Commissioner Vanessa Baugh supported the policy change.
“If we had a situation in this building, it would be great to know that we also had others in this building that were there that could help defend,” said Baugh. “I think it is the right step given some of the problems that we are seeing in this country today.”
Moms Demand Action led a protest outside county headquarters before Tuesday’s meeting. They feel the change will only cause issues.
“Arms do not belong in workplaces, arms do not belong in schools. The police should be the ones who are armed with visible guns to defend the population. I don’t want ‘Mr. Joe’ to come to my defense because he has a gun. I am totally opposed to that,” said Graciela Greenberg.
Commissioners are expected to look at different amendment options within the next 30 days.