BRADENTON, Fla. — In a few weeks, most Manatee County employees won't have to leave their firearms in their personal car or at home when they come to work. Instead, they would be able to bring them into county office buildings and vehicles and carry them around while working.
The county's board of commissioners approved this new policy Tuesday morning in a 7-0 vote.
After weeks of legal review of the policy draft, county leaders passed the new rule letting workers carry concealed weapons.
The board members said they wanted the policy to coincide with the new permitless carry state law that goes into effect next month.
"I am much more concerned about someone who could care less about our policy, who wants to do evil, showing up and no one being able to protect themselves. That concerns me," James Satcher, board member of the Manatee County Commission, said.
County workers, though, remain forbidden to bring weapons into schools, courthouses and polling places and may not openly carry them.
Code enforcement workers are also exempt from the policy and cannot carry weapons on the job.
Commissioners said the policy is about ensuring safety and security and preempting intruders who may have violent intentions.
"If they feel comfortable to arm themselves and it's within their rights and by law, they can. We want them to have that option. I'm not going to be the person to take away their second amendment right," Satcher said.
"I disagree. I disagree highly with that," Jeanette Kelly, a Manatee County resident.
Some citizens against this new policy have said it is reckless and makes it easier for disgruntled workers to seek recourse through violent means. However, only one person attended the meeting to speak against the policy during the public comments session.
"Who is to say when you're mad with someone, and you've got a weapon and you just do away with that person because you have the right to defend yourself but you're not really defending yourself," Kelly said.
This is the latest gun rights-related policy the county is adopting this year. In March, the board passed a resolution designating a second amendment sanctuary for the county.
"I know overall, we would rather air on the side of the constitution. We want to make it where your constitutional rights don't stop when you come to work in Manatee County," Satcher said.
The new policy would now go into effect on July 1 to coincide with the state's permitless carry law.