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Sarasota County Commissioner promotes guns in the workplace

Written by on Saturday, July 8, 2023

As of July 1, Manatee County staff are allowed to carry firearms on the job. One Sarasota County Commissioner wants to follow suit.

By Ramon Lopez

Original Air Date: July 7, 2023


Official Transcript

Jesse Coleman: As of July 1, Floridians who are eligible to own a handgun are now able to carry it concealed, without a permit or required training. But firearms remain barred from a long list of locations, including police stations, jails, courthouses and government meetings. Also as of July 1, Manatee County staff are allowed to carry weapons on the job. Sarasota County employees maybe next if County Commissioner Mike Moran gets his way. WSLR’s Ramon Lopez explains.

Host: On June 6, Manatee County commissioners voted unanimously to approve a concealed carry policy for employees on duty. They said county workers need to be able to protect themselves under their Second Amendment right.

The controversial policy has strings attached: the worker must be eligible to own a handgun and must retain control of it at all times. The concealed firearm may never be left in an unoccupied county vehicle. Employees may secure their firearms in a locked drawer or a purse, briefcase or backpack. Some workers may be barred from concealed carry, if their duties involve entering facilities where carrying a firearm is prohibited by law.

Not all agree with the new policy. Manatee resident and gun control activist, Ginger McCallum.

Ginger McCallum: In my opinion, they’re prioritizing guns over safety, over people’s lives, and just simply introducing more guns or the possibility of more guns introduces the possibility more gun violence. So I can get a very bad idea indeed.

Host: Sarasota County Commissioner Michael Moran likes the idea of armed county workers. He and fellow commissioners have directed the office of the county attorney and county staff to research the steps necessary for county employees to carry concealed. He brought up the idea during their regular meeting on June 13. He wants a deeper discussion on possibly implementing such a policy.

Michael Moran: I did reach out to folks in Manatee County and had them send me over, just trying to get a better understanding of what they did, at their board related to personnel being able to carry concealed weapons. I did get, it wasn’t a resolution ordinance as a matter of fact, it’s my understanding from some of the follow up that they just changed their personnel policies, is my understanding. But hopefully there’s a consensus or majority interest in directing the county attorney to come back to us with maybe a similar, or frankly, maybe the same type of wording in our personnel or HR or whatever appropriate channel is related to personnel policy to this.

Maybe at that time, maybe we can have a deeper discussion about it, but at least maybe today, directing staff to get some meaningful information to come back to us to maybe make a policy decision related to this matter. To hopefully get feedback for any commissioners, or with not, if there’s no objection, I ask the county attorney to move forward with what I’m suggesting.

Host: New commissioner Neil Rainford agrees.

Neil Rainford: Yeah, I would echo what Commissioner Moran said, and I think it’s worthy of study, what we could do policy-wise in terms of personnel policy for this issue.

Host: Polk and Pasco Counties do not allow their employees to conceal and carry inside government buildings. Hillsborough County said workers with concealed carry permits are allowed to have their weapons secured in their private vehicles, parked on county property. Hillsborough said it is studying whether to follow the new state law on concealed carry. Ginger McCallum also has problems with the new Florida concealed carry or constitutional carry law.

GM: And particularly with permitless carry coming up July 1 here in Florida, I think there’s going to be more and more people, because they don’t have to get that permit to carry their gun around. We’re going to see a lot more people carrying those guns around, and they need to understand the impact of not securely storing their firearm.

Host: Two recent examples stand out in regards to concealed carry and “stand your ground” shootings. In El Paso, Texas, a woman is accused of fatally shooting her Uber driver. Last month, she mistakenly believed she was being kidnapped into Mexico. She shot the Uber driver in the head. Prior to calling 911, she took a photo of the wounded driver and sent it to her boyfriend via text message before officers arrived at the scene. She has been charged with murder.

Closer to home on June 15, a Dunedin man fired 30 rounds from his AR 15 rifle at his pool cleaner. It was after dark and the homeowner thought his regular pool cleaner, who came unannounced, was an intruder. Fortunately, the pool worker sustained only minor injuries from flying glass. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says Florida’s Stand Your Ground law covers the shooting incident and the Dunedin man won’t face charges. Gaultieri says the shooter was within his right to fire on someone he believed posted a threat. Gualtieri said, “It was one of those situations we call lawful but awful.”

As Sarasota County politicians discuss whether county workers should be armed while on duty if they so choose, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is wrapping up its investigation of the May 13 “stand your ground” shooting on Fruitville Road near Cattlemen Road that left one man dead. Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Dana Judge said the shooting probe was still in process, but close to being finalized, at which point the case will be reviewed by the state’s attorney.

In the incident, a 58 year old man was shot by another man after what appears to have been a road rage incident. The sheriff’s office has yet to release the names of the two men, or that of a female witness, all from Sarasota. Deputies responding to the shooting found the pickup truck driver deceased. The surviving shooter told the sheriff’s office there had been a verbal altercation during which the driver of the pickup pointed a gun at him. The shooter then exited his car and fired multiple rounds, striking the other driver. Their surviving shooter has a valid concealed carry weapons permit. The man and woman spoke to detectives and were allowed to leave.

Judge said, based on the initial investigation, no charges were filed at the time and no one has been arrested in the case as the shooting remains under investigation.

This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.


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