CAMDEN COUNTY, Mo. — Elected officials at the Camden County Courthouse want the ability to carry a concealed weapon, and it appears county commissioners will not stand in their way.

County employees are prohibited from carrying a weapon to work at the Camden County Courthouse, and a proposed personnel policy change would bar elected officials from doing so. But on June 30 at a county commission meeting, the three commissioners discussed the issue, along with the possibility of creating a carveout that would allow elected officials to carry (as long as they were licensed to do so). Commissioner Cliff Luber says there were about 10 elected officials in the room. Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty, who has previously voiced concerns about weapons being carried in the courthouse, asked for a show of hands to indicate who, among the elected officials, would like the ability to carry a weapon in the courthouse. Meeting minutes show all the officials present said they would.

Commissioners Greg Hasty and Bev Thomas say they were surprised by that.

“We had been hearing rumblings… that they weren’t happy with everybody having guns [in the courthouse,” Thomas said.

“I figured it would be a 50/50 [vote],” Hasty said, “But everyone in that room said that ‘We want to retain our right to carry a weapon.’”

Thomas pointed out the three commissioners didn’t vote, since it was the commission asking the question. She doesn’t carry a weapon, and says she still won’t, even if there’s no policy or law against it. “It’s just a personal thing,” she said.

Though the commission was previously considering a personnel policy that would bar elected officials from carrying a weapon, that unanimous vote has changed the trajectory. “It’s gonna be pretty tough for us to go against the feelings of the elected officials,” Hasty said.

Thomas added, “If that’s what the elected officials want, then I think we would abide by it.”

Luber noted the proposed policy would have been an internal matter; elected officials are allowed by law to carry a concealed weapon into the courthouse, and to legally prohibit them from doing so, a county ordinance would have to be passed.

He said he would be opposed to any such ordinance, and added, “I will make it known whose idea that was, to restrict somebody’s 2nd Amendment right.”

He added, “I will carry if it’s legal for me to carry, with that policy. If it’s not legal, then I will not.” Several elected officials currently carry a weapon at the courthouse, Luber pointed out. He personally carries a Glock 27 or 42.

That several officials carry is no surprise to any of the commissioners, and Thomas said Sheriff Dwight Franklin has recommended, if elected officials are permitted to carry, the county should make two stipulations:

1. Each individual who carries a weapon must have a CCW

2. The sheriff’s office should have a comprehensive list of every elected official in the courthouse who is carrying

All three commissioners agree courthouse security should be improved, with Hasty saying the situation was still “in the stone age.”

“The only thing that protects employees in this building… is an elected official with a weapon,” he acknowledged, adding, “We have to address this.”

Hasty has a CCW and owns a Kahr PM9, but says he doesn’t typically carry it on him.

“I prefer a guitar in my hand,” he mused.

Thomas says allowing elected officials to carry at the courthouse won’t make her feel safer. She would rather see a metal detector at the entrance, manned by a sheriff’s deputy. The county is currently looking at the financial feasibility of such an option. The sheriff’s office has recommended that, and also suggested having a plainclothes deputy patrol the courthouse periodically.

Luber sees things differently. He says more officials carrying weapons they are licensed to carry means a safer workplace at the courthouse. He would even be open to allowing unelected employees to carry.

“My personal view: If you’re an employee and you have a CCW, I welcome you carrying in there,” he said.

Luber thinks placing sheriff’s deputies in the building could help with security, but their presence would be enhanced by law-abiding county employees and officials who choose to carry.

“I gotta go,” Luber broke in suddenly, talking on the phone from his farm. “I got a 12-gauge in my hand; I gotta go shoot this squirrel that’s been eating my peaches.”

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