Debate over gun policy restrictions for Rutherford County employees
- Commissioner Craig Harris opposes most county employees carrying guns on the job because of their accountability.
- Commissioner Pettus Read said only trained law enforcement officers should carry firearms while working
- Rutherford County has 1,332 employees, including 253 law enforcement officers
- Mt. Juliet allows city workers to carry guns to work
Rutherford County should end a policy prohibiting most employees from carrying concealed firearms, says resident Edward Phillips.
“They have a right to defend themselves, and that includes a weapon if they choose to,” said Phillips, a former county jail detention officer who now works as a supervisor for a recycling plant in La Vergne.
An ad hoc county committee has considered this issue twice and held a second meeting recently after Phillips filed a formal complaint that adequate public notice was not given for the first meeting.
Although the Rutherford County Commission has declared its jurisdiction in 2020 to be a County Sanctuary of the Second Amendment in support of gun rights, the ad hoc committee has on each occasion supported the current employee gun policy. fire.
The county prohibits most of the 1,332 full-time government employees (not including the school district) and about 300 part-time employees from carrying firearms while working. They can only carry guns if they are among the 253 Sheriff’s Deputies certified by the state’s Peace Officer Standards & Training Commission.
The ad hoc committee’s findings will be considered by the Rutherford County Steering, Legislative and Government Committee at a meeting on Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the County Courthouse.
Rutherford County employees should also be allowed to carry firearms as they sometimes work in rural areas where phones or radios are not serviced, Phillips said.
“They are vulnerable,” he said.
Harris: County would be responsible if employee negligently fired
Commissioner Craig Harris, Chairman of the Steering Committee, supports the position of the ad hoc committee he headed.
“The reason I voted to keep the policy in place is because I think we would be too exposed to county responsibility,” Harris said. “If someone were to shoot negligently or shoot someone, we would lose our immunity and we would be prosecuted.”
The county should not accelerate the risk of being held accountable by allowing all employees to carry firearms while working, he said.
“We could be open to all kinds of lawsuits,” Harris said, adding that the committee was unanimous in favor of the existing policy after consulting with County District Attorney Nick Christiansen and County Mayor Bill Ketron.
The departmental ad hoc committee is made up of six other members:
- Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh
- Director of the Correctional Work Center William Cope
- Commissioner Pettus Read
- Director of Human Resources Sonya Stephenson
- Director of Insurance Risk Management Ed Elam
- Director of Public Safety Chris Clark
Commissioner: Only trained officers should carry firearms
Read, who is chairman of the commission’s public safety committee, said county officials are also reviewing plans to add private security guards to county buildings to increase security and provide information to the county. public.
“We are simply ensuring the safety of our employees and citizens of Rutherford County,” Read said. “This is our first priority. We will continue to make our buildings safer.”
Lu a year ago persuaded the commission to back Rutherford as a Second Amendment shrine county. However, he considers the issue of firearms policy with employees to be different.
“They represent the county,” Read said. “The county still has this responsibility situation.”
Read said only county law enforcement officials should be allowed to carry firearms while on duty, as they receive extensive training in how and when to use firearms.
“We don’t want accidents,” Read said.
Mt. Juliet allows workers to carry guns
Other local governments have looked at employee gun carrying policies, including Mt. Juliet officials who decided in 2019 to allow workers to bring guns to work, the mayor said. James Maness.
“We used to require employees to be defenseless on the job, and we dropped that requirement,” Maness said, adding that liability issues were investigated before the policy changed. “We have stopped taking away the rights of employees to be able to defend themselves.”
Maness said it was an easy decision for him to respect the Second Amendment rights of his city’s employees.
“These were rights they already had as US citizens,” Maness said. “I don’t want to infringe any human rights. We just stop infringing on their existing rights.”
Contact reporter Scott Broden at [email protected] or 615-278-5158. Follow him on Twitter @ScottBroden.