Guns now banned on county property


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Maybe it was the meeting’s 9 a.m. starting time. Maybe residents had exhausted their opinions at last week’s meeting.

But whatever the reason, no one spoke Thursday about the Johnson County Board of Supervisors’ vote to pass a resolution banning guns and other dangerous weapons on county-owned property. At the supervisors’ last meeting, a number of residents voiced their opinions on the issue.

“I was surprised,” said Supervisor Janelle Rettig. “I thought there would at least be someone with something to say.”

The supervisors unanimously approved the resolution during their meeting Thursday morning; it took effect immediately, Johnson County prosecutor Janet Lyness said.

The resolution restricted the state’s “shall-issue” law that went into effect Jan. 1, which lessened sheriffs’ discretion in issuing gun permits.

One factor supervisors cited in making their decision was easing concerns of county employees, who are prohibited from carrying weapons to work.

“It’s more about intimidation than safety,” Rettig said.

And knowing someone in the audience is carrying a gun could influence supervisors’ decisions at meetings, Rettig said. Weapons act as an intimidation factor, which she said they hoped the resolution would eliminate.

“Our current environment has employees scared and that’s unfortunate,” said Supervisor Rod Sullivan.

The supervisors’ decision came two days after the Iowa City City Council passed a similar resolution banning guns on city-owned property and in buildings.

Johnson County Chief Deputy Steve Dolezal said he is glad both county and local governments are taking a proactive stance with gun restrictions.

During Thursday’s discussion, Sullivan said that whatever inconvenience is brought by the resolution needs to be overlooked by the overall benefit it provides to the “people doing the public’s business.”

The resolution prohibits firearms from county-owned buildings and parking lots, parks, and recreation areas. County-owned vehicles were added to the list Thursday. However, supervisors said the amendment exempts county-owned vehicles used by law-enforcement officials.

“My concern was that they were not going to allow [guns] in county-owned vehicles,” said Dolezal, who spoke during the discussion.

It is not uncommon for law-enforcement officials to stow guns in their vehicles, Dolezal said.
But before the vote, the supervisors discussed what they perceived to be hypocrisy in the Jan. 1 legislation.

Supervisor Terrence Neuzil said it was “extremely hypocritical” for the state government to exempt the Iowa Capitol from the legislation.

“If you don’t like [the county’s resolution], talk to the new governor and the legislators, and get the Capitol changed, and then I’ll reconsider,” he said.

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