Cities and Counties Examine New Security Measures After Gun Bill Signing

Some local cities and counties are exploring whether to add metal detectors or police officers to government buildings without security. The effort comes after Governor Nathan Deal recently signed a bill allowing those with concealed weapons permits to carry guns into unsecured government buildings.

Gwinnett County currently has metal detectors and police officers in its justice and administration center. It also has varying degrees of security at a number of the more than 100 other county buildings. But as a result of the newly signed gun bill, county spokesman Joe Sorenson says it plans to examine whether the county should add or change security measures at a number of facilities.

“At this point right now, I think the focus is going to be the buildings that have public access.”

And Sorenson says cost is one of the factors the county will examine at as it makes its decision. That’s one of the reasons Bartow County is not planning to add officers or metal detectors to many of its government buildings. Peter Olson is the county administrator for Bartow County.

“Our main courthouse already has armed deputies and metal detectors, so the guns will continue not to be allowed within the main courthouse, and our few outlying departmental buildings it would be cost prohibitive to add fulltime screening and metal detectors. Even though it was illegal to bring guns in those buildings, I imagine people with carry permits were doing it anyway.”

Olson says adding a police officer to each unsecured government building would cost at least $40,000-$50,000 per building. That expense is one of several reasons why the Georgia Municipal Association opposed the bill prior to its passage. Amy Henderson is a spokesperson for the Georgia Municipal Association.

“Our concern was the cost that this puts on city governments as far as putting in security measures at all the different city facilities…The other one is that it does leave cities open to lawsuits by people who feel cities may have stepped on their second amendment rights.”

But GeorgiaCarry.Org executive director Jerry Henry says the new law is needed to make unsecured government buildings safer.

“Same reason you should be allowed to carry them anywhere, because criminals do not abide by the law and you’re just as apt to be accosted in a government building as anywhere else.”

The Georgia Municipal Association says it’s now focusing on educating cities about the new law. The law takes effect July 1.

The city of Statham, Georgia is also considering whether to purchase a portable metal detector. If the city council approves the purchase, it would likely use grant funding it receives as part of participation in the Georgia Municipal Association’s insurance program to help pay for the metal detector.