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Monroe County officials debate courthouse security

T-L Photos/CARRI GRAHAM Monroe County officials discuss whether county employees should be able to carry concealed weapons into the courthouse at last week’s commission meeting. Shown from left are Judge Julie Selmon, Sheriff Chuck Black and Emergency Management Agency Director Phillip Keevert.

By CARRI GRAHAM

Times Leader Staff Writer

WOODSFIELD — Monroe County officials met with commissioners last week to discuss courthouse security.

Common Pleas Court Judge Julie Selmon said she wanted to meet with Commissioners Tim Price, Carl Davis and Mick Shumacher and Sheriff Chuck Black to discuss whether county employees should be able to enter the courthouse with concealed weapons. Multiple employees have inquired about the matter, she said.

“It’s been brought up multiple times by people. I do not agree with it at all, but I’m not the person that decides these things,” Selmon said. “I think he (Sheriff Black) should decide, along with you people (commissioners).”

Selmon said she assumes the employees who are interested in concealed carry possess their concealed carry license.

“My feeling is, the reason we have people downstairs (in the courthouse) securing the door and the entrance, if you let people carry guns in here, we don’t need those people down there,” Selmon added. “You might as well send them packing, but it’s not something for me to decide.”

Davis remarked that the “list to carry” in the courthouse is a pretty short one. Currently, the only people legally allowed to carry concealed weapons in the courthouse are security officers, bailiffs and judges.

Black said he is “actively against” the prospect of other people being able to bring concealed weapons into the courthouse.

“If you guys decide to do that, that’s your decision, but I don’t think that, other than judges, security officers and bailiffs … that anyone else should be carrying a firearm,” he said.

Davis said that with Black’s remarks, the decision was clear — no one, besides those who currently carry concealed weapons should be able to carry them inside the courthouse.

Phillip Keevert, Monroe County Emergency Management Agency director, was also present to make his case in the debate. Keevert would like to be able to carry a concealed weapon on the job. He pointed out that he often is out on the job late, unarmed and unprotected.

“We’re a little concerned outside of the courthouse, carrying,” Keevert said.

That is a different discussion, Davis told Keevert.

Black said his issue with allowing just any county employee to carry a concealed weapon is the time frame required to be certified. Sheriff’s department deputies are well trained and have monthly mandatory training, he said.

“The thing is if you have a tool and can’t use it, it’s worthless,” he said.

Davis remarked that the board also has received calls from the Veterans Services Office requesting permission to carry concealed weapons at the courthouse.

“I still think they should meet the minimum qualifications set. … I’m for the Second Amendment, but a lot of people get their CCW and they don’t shoot for five years and they carry that (gun) on their side and, in turn, a lot of times, they don’t clean their weapon. Their weapon doesn’t operate and it malfunctions,” Black said.

Price said the board is looking at two different issues — county employees carrying inside the courthouse and county employees carrying on county property.

“As the board of commissioners, if we wanted to go down that road and establish some policy for employees, I understand that we can do that. If we want to put some language in there such as minimum requirements or qualifications,” he said.

Davis said the complication that arises is that if you give permission to one person, then where do you draw the line on who can and cannot carry a concealed weapon?

Black recommended the board get in touch with CORSA, the County Risk Sharing Authority insurance provider, to further educate themselves on the guidelines and liability of allowing county employees to carry weapons. He also suggested exploring other counties’ policies to identify what plans are in place.

For now, the courthouse’s security measures will remain unchanged — allowing only those previously approved to carry concealed weapons. The board plans to take the sheriff’s advice and investigate the issue further prior to making a final decision on allowing county employees working outside of the courthouse to carry concealed weapons.

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