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CONWAY -- Some Faulkner County government employees can soon add guns to the items they carry to work each day.

The county's Quorum Court voted 12-0 Tuesday night to allow employees and elected officials who are licensed to carry a concealed handgun to bring one onto county property. Justice of the Peace Linda Paxton was absent.

The ordinance will take effect once County Judge Jim Baker signs it.

The measure has some significant exceptions. They include any detention facility, any sheriff's department office, and the Faulkner County Justice Building. That building, dedicated just over a year ago, houses six circuit courtrooms and five judges' chambers, the prosecuting attorney's office, a circuit clerk branch, and other offices.

Also exempted is any other courtroom, unless permission is granted by the presiding judge. That exception would cover the district court building on Parkway Street in Conway, as well as any other rooms where court might be held.

The Justice Building has a guarded metal detector at its first-floor entrance. Armed deputies are also stationed in courtrooms during hearings or trials. There are no detectors on the four-story building's upper floors, where all of the courtrooms are located.

In explaining why the Justice Building was exempted, Justice of the Peace Randy Higgins, who oversaw the bill's progress over the past three months, said after the meeting that all of the circuit judges "were already going to not allow [the public to carry] firearms in their courtrooms."

"That building is full of law-enforcement officers ... already," said Higgins, a Republican. Justices of the peace also didn't want to have to install additional metal detectors throughout the building.

The only discussion preceding the vote was Higgins' brief explanation of amendments to the measure. No one from the audience offered any questions or comments.

Higgins said he wasn't surprised at how easily the measure passed because it had been amended repeatedly "to make accommodations" for others' concerns over the past three months.

"I went to every one of the elected officials and talked to them individually," he said. He also spoke to the county's other elected officials about the proposal.

Higgins said he believes the ordinance, along with active-shooter training for all county employees, will make county buildings safer. Sheriff Matt Rice has agreed to offer the training to all employees, not just those who bring guns to work, Higgins said.

"We certainly don't want to create a situation where just because you're an employee with a concealed carry permit, all of a sudden you become law enforcement," he added.

The county also plans to have elected officials keep a list of employees who have concealed-carry permits so that people will know which workers are allowed to bring them.

"We're not talking about a lot of employees," Higgins said. He said his "gut" feeling is that fewer than a dozen employees will bring concealed weapons to work.

Justice of the Peace Steve Goode, a Republican, said after the meeting that he also wasn't surprised at the lack of discussion among justices of the peace at Tuesday night's meeting or the lack of comments from the audience.

"I think their questions [were] answered before they got here," Goode said. "That thing was vetted very well in our Courts and Public Safety Committee."

Earlier this year, the Arkansas General Assembly approved Act 1259, which allows county elected officials and county employees with concealed-weapon permits to carry concealed handguns in county buildings, with the approval of their quorum courts.

Such buildings may include "the courthouse, the courthouse annex or other building owned, leased, or regularly used by the county for conducting court proceedings or housing a county office," says the act, sponsored in part by state Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas.

State Desk on 11/18/2015

Print Headline: Faulkner County workers to be allowed guns on job


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Archived Comments

    November 18, 2015 at 7:51 a.m.

    Bravo for Faulkner County officials, showing real responsibility and concern for their employees.

  • RaylanGivens
    November 18, 2015 at 9:31 a.m.

    Boltar just went into convulsions, foaming at the mouth. Someone help him!

  • Kharma
    November 18, 2015 at 9:47 a.m.

    Pistoleros unite! This is a banner day for self-defense aficionados.

  • TimberTopper
    November 18, 2015 at 10:08 a.m.

    So I wonder if any of those people ever had any kind of mental problem , or will have one in the future? If a person is afraid to leave home without being armed maybe they already have a mental problem and should just stay indoors.

  • carpenterretired
    November 18, 2015 at 8:47 p.m.

    The old paradox, is a person who is so paranoid and fearful that he would carry a gun at all times and places for self defense mentally stable enough to have a gun ,but do stipulate that police and drug dealers really do need to carry a gun at all times.

  • Packman
    November 18, 2015 at 9:58 p.m.

    Hey Timber - Isn't one of the "demands" of anti-gun wingnuts mandatory firearm's training? This ordinance requires not only CC training but active-shooter training too. Sounds pretty responsible, don't you think? As to mental health issues, you do know CC holders are subjected to stringent background checks prior to issuance of a CC permit? You do know that, right? Or could you be looking into a mirror with your wonder of a "mental problem"?

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