NAACP calls on Manatee County to reconsider staff gun policy

The Manatee County chapter of the NAACP spoke out against a recent proposal that would allow county government employees to carry guns on the job.

The Manatee County Commission voted earlier this month to consider revising the firearms policy for employees later this summer. In a press release provided to the Bradenton Herald on Wednesday, Manatee NAACP President Luther Wilkins denounced the idea as “creating a potentially wild environment.”

“The Manatee County NAACP is committed to keeping all citizens safe and preventing anyone’s constitutional rights from being violated,” Wilkins wrote. “Therefore, the NAACP of Manatee County strongly opposes the institution of an ordinance that allows county employees (with concealed carry permits) to carry firearms in the workplace.”

Commissioner James Satcher raised the idea at a town hall meeting earlier this month, pointing to the county’s current policy, which requires employees to enter the workplace unarmed.

“We see that gun-free zones should be called criminal empowerment zones. They basically just let the bad guys know exactly where to target,” Satcher said during the reunion. “I think we have a similar situation right now with 2,000 county employees who are not allowed to exercise their Second Amendment rights while on the job.”

Weapon-free zones have long been a talking point for Second Amendment advocates, such as the National Rifle Association, who argue that any zone that prohibits guns is dangerous. In 2017, Florida lawmakers briefly considered a bill to eliminate gun-free zones across the state.

Some members of the Manatee County Board of Directors said they were hesitant to update the county’s policy regarding employees’ ability to carry weapons.

Satcher’s proposal follows a similar pledge from Gov. Ron DeSantis, who promised to sign a constitutional bill before leaving office. A constitutional carry law would allow most people to buy a gun without asking for a permit or take gun training lessons.

Commissioner Reggie Bellamy warned that the proposed change could lead to scenarios involving an employee shootout or a disgruntled county staff member. In a prepared statement, the local NAACP said it had similar concerns.

“A better solution for the county would be to institute metal detectors at entrances and continue to use full-time paid law enforcement officers during business hours, such as during commission meetings. There are better solutions than what has been proposed,” Wilkins wrote.

Reached for comment Thursday, Satcher dismissed the NAACP’s concerns, arguing the policy would make employees safer.

“The truth is that criminals don’t care about our rules. They don’t wake up in the morning to check county policy,” Satcher said.

The council will hold a public meeting on July 26 to discuss the impact of the firearms policy review on government operations. County staff are expected to share a presentation that weighs the pros and cons of the change before council makes a final decision.

Pointing to the council’s Republican majority, Satcher said he hopes his fellow council members won’t be convinced to vote against the policy review.

“I think that should be a no-brainer for a Republican elected official,” he explained. “Part of the core of conservative belief is that it is better to have the freedom to take care of yourself than to rely on government regulation.”

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Manatee County NAACP Chapter President Luther Wilkins (right) speaks after County Commissioner James Satcher (left) suggested revising personnel policy to allow government employees to carry firearms at work. Bradenton Herald / Provided via FB

This story was originally published May 26, 2022 3:31 p.m.

Ryan Callihan is the county reporter for the Bradenton Herald, covering local government and politics. On weekends, it also covers the latest news. Ryan graduated from USF St. Petersburg.
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