Friday, February 20, 2015

Leave Your Guns At Home, Howard County

Council-members Calvin Ball, Jen Terrasa, and Jon Weinstein have pre-filed a bill that would prohibit gun owners from carrying their weapons in County-owned buildings (CB8-2015).  If you read the bill, you will see that it is heavily circumscribed with numerous exceptions for law enforcement personnel, retired military, and bank guards.  Said otherwise - this law clearly went through a great deal of deliberation, even going so far as to consider licensed hunters on County property during the occasional "these deer are getting out of hand" seasons.

I think all of us who pay attention to hyper-local news were surprised when it was noted earlier this year that Howard County had no prohibition against carrying guns into public buildings. Libraries, senior centers, the Robinson Nature Center, and, of course, the Howard Building - all available to anyone with a gun and a permit.

It should be no surprise that with the prevalence of random acts of public violence, there have been lesser known shootings on municipal property.  The Kirkwood City Council shooting occurred on February 7, 2008, in Kirkwood, Missouri, United States; a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri in St. Louis County. A gunman went on a shooting rampage at a public meeting in the city hall, leaving six people dead and two others injured.

On January 27, 2015, in New Hope, Minnesota, a man opened fire during a police swearing-in ceremony in the City Council chamber, injuring two officers, before being killed by the police.

Unlike other gun control laws, the bill before the County Council cannot be so easily dismissed as "if you make guns illegal, only criminals will have guns."  Limiting guns in public spaces needs to go no further than a metal detector at the front door, something I need to pass through to watch the Ravens, but not a contentious County hearing.

As a lawyer, I appreciate and am thankful for the metal detectors at the front of every courthouse in the state.  My wife and mother may not be excited to hear that I've had pro se litigants tell me that they have firearms they intend to bring to court.  I just smile and show up for the hearing extra early to make sure I'm inside before that becomes an issue.

Those who participate in our democracy should have similar reassurances that the other people in the room are not armed.  Or, to use a phrase common among those who favor strong gun rights, we only have "good guys with guns" and no "bad guys with guns".

I believe this is precisely the type of "common sense gun law" that our County Executive said he would support when he ran for office.  Guns have no place in the Council Chamber or public library.  Let's put that into law.

Have a great Friday doing what you love!