Harvey County Commissioners voted to seek a temporary exemption from legislation allowing concealed weapons in government buildings. The exemption will buy the county more time to decide how to address security issues.
"Either we have it in place, or concealed carry will be allowed," said Greg Nye, county counselor. "... This keeps our foot in the door."
Starting July 1, state law will require counties to allow people to carry firearms into government buildings like courthouses, regardless of any previous county polices. Currently, courthouses may ban concealed weapons by posting a sign, but the law will change that to require them to provide electronic security equipment and an armed guard in order to stop people from carrying concealed weapons.
Like the city of Newton, the county has filed for an exemption that will delay the need to respond to the legislation until Jan. 1, 2014. Government entities had to do so by July 1, in order to prevent the law from going into effect.
Harvey County now will have an option to assess government buildings and establish a security plan, which will give the buildings a four-year exemption from the conceal carry law. The county ultimately can decide to either remove "no-carry" signs and allow concealed carry in the buildings, or provide metal detectors or wands and personnel at each public entrance, and then designate the building as “no-carry.”
The county has a somewhat lengthy list of facilities that will need to be assessed, ranging from the Health Department and the County Courthouse, to the Road and Bridge office, county parks and fairgrounds facilities, and the Transfer Station/Landfill.
Nye said the county might come up with a variety of plans for the different facilities, based on needs. For example, the county may choose to station armed guards in the courthouse but allow concealed carry at another facility.
"There might be only three buildings off this whole list that we decide to make a security plan for," said Anthony Swartzendruber, assistant administrator and finance director for the county.