Michael Wrather

Michael Wrather

Signs prohibiting handguns in the Historic Courthouse are being removed to align with state law that already allowed them in some county-owned buildings in certain circumstances, officials say.

Private citizens mentioned the issue recently to County Commissioner Michael Wrather, prompting the change, he said. He brought it up at last week’s Public Safety Committee meeting. He said that although the county government had the right to simply remove the signs, he and committee Chairman Pettus Read wanted to make sure the topic was discussed in a public setting for the sake of transparency.

A state statute was amended in 2017 to allow those with handgun carry permits to bring handguns into certain county-owned or operated buildings, Wrather said. Exceptions include schools, libraries, jails, police buildings, buildings that conduct court, or buildings with metal detectors in which police or trained security personnel operate the devices and each visitor is subject to being searched.

Any other type of firearm is still prohibited, Wrather said.

After researching the issue, Wrather said, he discovered it had been discussed by the previous county mayor, previous county attorney and the human resources director in 2017. Signs in other qualifying buildings were taken down.

“So, I think we missed a building,” he said.

Or, the signs may have been left at the Historic Courthouse because judges continued to occasionally use the facility prior to the new Judicial Center being built whenever the old center became overcrowded, he said. Twenty years ago, one judge continued to hold proceedings in the Historic Courthouse for that reason, he said.

Discussion at the committee meeting questioned whether county workers other than police would now be allowed to carry in buildings if they have a permit. Current county policy prohibits that.

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