Gun law has county rethinking facility security

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — County Commissioners are discussing the new firearm legislation (House Bill 60) and its impact on Forsyth County.

Whether the county wants to change its current gun policy is still being worked out.

The new gun law, which went into effect July 1, expands where Georgians may legally carry firearms, including into public schools, bars, churches and government buildings — under certain conditions.

The item was first discussed at the work sessions of May 20 and again June 10 and June 24.

At the June 10 meeting County Attorney Ken Jarrard made a presentation to answer questions from the previous meeting.

At that meeting there was also discussion regarding the cost of providing screening at an additional $186,000 per year to cover law enforcement personnel at various entrances to the Administration Building.

The county is also considering the purchase metal detectors and wants to make modification to the employee handbook so that employees cannot carry weapons to work.

Although this law becomes effective on July 1, Jarrard said, there is no requirement that the board take any action to implement the bill.

Jarrard did suggest the county remove existing signage that states weapons are prohibited because this will not be true anymore and could be challenged.

“As far as policy modifications, or hiring new individuals to screen our doors, there’s no requirement that we do any of it,” Jarrard said.

On June 24, Commission Chairman Pete Amos said he was not comfortable hiring additional staff to screen everybody who enters the county Administration Building.

Commissioner Jim Boff led a discussion regarding implementing a glass enclosed area similar to what exists in the reception area of the water department.

“I’m suggesting that something along those lines might be cheaper than having somebody wandering,” Boff said.

In the past, there was an area in the planning department that had glass, Planning and Community Development Director Tom Brown said, but staff found that it compromised customer service.

Boff then made a motion to place signs to say, “We allow weapons,” to be installed at the building’s lobby, but that motion died for a lack of a second.

County Manager Doug Derrer said in the past there was a sheriff’s deputy downstairs securing the atrium of the Administration Building. But several years ago, the county transitioned from a sheriff’s deputy to a code enforcement officer, who are not certified and cannot carry a weapon.

These officers do provide some security, but are limited in what they can do, Derrer said.

Staff will explore the possibility of certifying code enforcement officers and park rangers under an agency that could be resurrected (such as the Marshal’s Office) or possibly under the sheriff’s office.

“We’re going to have to come up with some idea on how to handle this law,” Amos said. “It’s new territory.”

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