Mohave County workers get green light on guns

Steve Harris carts away part of the magnetometer.<BR>JC AMBERLYN/Miner

Steve Harris carts away part of the magnetometer.<BR>JC AMBERLYN/Miner

KINGMAN - A divided Board of Supervisors voted 3 to 2 to allow Mohave County employees to carry weapons in the county administrative building.

District 2 Supervisor Hildy Angius and District 1 Supervisor Gary Watson voted against lifting the ban on employees carrying weapons listed in the county's employee merit rules.

Several employees spoke in favor of removing the ban. Most of them were concerned because the public is now allowed to carry weapons into the building. The Board of Supervisors approved allowing the public to carry weapons into the building in March.

There have been several changes in state legislatures that allow public employees to carry weapons into public buildings, such as schools, said Michael Dorman from the county development services department.

"But in Mohave County, in the event of a situation, our best options are to hide behind our desks or throw a chair at them," Dorman said.

Judy Toledo and Leslie Bruxvoort, two employees from the county's office of management and budget, opposed lifting the ban.

"It's not that we don't respect our coworkers who want to carry, but we don't want or coworkers to get hurt or killed either by an accidental discharge," Toledo said.

The Arizona concealed weapon carry permit process doesn't provide enough training, she said. Also, employees carrying a gun are at risk of being shot by law enforcement in a situation where it's hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan agreed that in a shooting situation, it could be difficult for deputies to determine which person holding a gun was the good guy.

"I'm not anti-gun. I own several guns. I just don't think it's appropriate here," Toledo said.

County Investigator Gary Engels said he wasn't in favor of allowing the public to bring guns into the building, but since the Board had decided to do that it should allow employees to carry, as long as they are properly trained when and where to use a gun.

"There's no other county in the state that allows employees to carry weapons and that takes me back to the liability to the county," Angius said.

"I'm uncomfortable with the whole situation, but I'm more uncomfortable with the fact that the public can carry but employees can't," said District 4 Supervisor Joy Brotherton, "You don't have to have a gun to hurt someone, but I don't want to be sitting duck, either."

District 1 Supervisor Gary Watson and District 3 Supervisor Buster Johnson also had concerns about the county's liability.

District 5 Supervisor Steven Moss argued for allowing employees to carry.

"It depends on what you want to do," said William Hardy of the Arizona Counties Insurance Pool. The more detail, restrictions and training the county offered to employees who wanted to carry at work, the more liability the county would assume.

Even limiting it to employees who have concealed weapons permits wouldn't help much, Hardy said, since the state recently relaxed the requirements to get a permit.

However, if the county decided to delete the reference in its merit rules prohibiting employees from carrying a weapon at work and leave it at that and an incident occurred, then the county would be covered, Hardy said. However, the insurance pool would not cover the actions of the individual employee.

The county would probably still get sued because plaintiffs always go for the deep pockets, Hardy said.

Moss made a motion to follow Hardy's advice and simply strike language prohibiting employees from carrying weapons.

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