Some Officials Unhappy About Losing Local "Gun-Free Zones"

A new law in Iowa allows concealed carry holders to lawfully carry in local government buildings, with limited exceptions, and already some local officials in several cities are freaking out about the change. As the local DeWitt Observer reported, the board of supervisors in Jackson County reacted strongly to the idea, in large part because of an incident that occurred six years ago at the county courthouse.

“Well, the idea of having a whole room full of people here (in the supervisors’ office) almost yelling at each other, that’s intense,” Supervisor Larry McDevitt said during last week’s Jackson County Board of Supervisors regular meeting. “Knowing that they can actually have their guns on them, that’s a scary situation,” especially when people aren’t correctly informed about the topic that is upsetting them, he added.

The supervisors and people in the Jackson County Courthouse experienced such a “scary situation” firsthand Sept. 9, 2014, when the county resolution banning firearms in the courthouse was still in place.

During a supervisors’ meeting that morning, Francis “Gus” Glaser, 71, a former Maquoketa city manager angry about his property taxes increasing, opened his briefcase, pulled out a gun, and shot it in the direction of then-county assessor Deb Lane. Glaser was tackled as he headed toward the door and fatally wounded himself, according to law enforcement statements.

I do understand why the supervisors may have some negative feelings about the new law, but at the same time, the ban that was in place did absolutely nothing to stop Glaser from bringing his gun into the courthouse and using it. What good is a policy that doesn’t work?

After the shooting in 2014, the county closed off all but one of the public entrances to the courthouse and hired a security guard. Under Iowa’s new law, if the county wants to keep its ban in place, all it has to do is install a metal detector at the entrance to the courthouse and have the security guard screen people as they enter.

“The point is, the way I see it, if we are not going to make sure people are not bringing in weapons, then the Legislature wants to allow the general population to protect themselves by bringing in their own weapons,” the county attorney explained. “Somebody who is not going to follow the law brings in a weapon, then the general population should be allowed to protect themselves.”

“I just think it’s ridiculous … a mistake,” Jackson County Supervisor Jack Willey said the day before the law took effect.

“Well, it sounds like we don’t have a choice,” Willey said after listening to Davenport.

He’s actually wrong on both counts. The county does have a choice, and the policy isn’t ridiculous. This week, Jackson County supervisors voted to take down the no-guns allowed signs instead of ponying up for a metal detector, though it’s a moot point at the moment since government buildings are currently closed to the public.

As for the supposed ridiculousness of the new law, in my opinion thinking that someone with murder on their mind is going to be dissuaded by a toothless and unenforced “no-guns allowed” policy is a much more ridiculous position to take. The county attorney is right; if the county is doing nothing to prevent someone with ill-intent from coming into the building with a firearm, then those law-abiding gun owners should absolutely have the ability to carry for their own protection inside that same facility. The choice is simple; either provide real security or recognize the right of self-defense.